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June's Invitation: Honor Every Child 

June 28th, 6:00-8:30 pm
(Please note the time change. As our numbers grow, we need more time)

 

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There were several defining moments in my childhood. My mother had a penchant for teaching a child a lesson. Once when I was eleven and I had my best friend over to spend the night, I left my necklace on the bathroom vanity counter. When I returned later to retrieve the necklace, it was gone. I looked everywhere and not finding it, made the only reasonable conclusion an eleven-year-old often makes. After having searched together for some time, I asked my friend if she had taken the necklace. I can still recall the hurt in her small brown eyes at the accusation. Because I remained convinced that was the only plausible explanation for the missing necklace and she was tired of answering the same question, she called her mother to come and get her. We sat each of us on separate ends of the porch in the most uncomfortable silence. As I watched my best friend climb indignantly into the passenger seat and the car drive out of sight, my mother came out onto the porch and stood next to me. She asked me if I was sure about the claim I had made against my friend and I shrugged in uncertainty. It was then that she reached out her closed hand. In my little pink palm the gold necklace was placed in a pile of acute surprise and regret.

It was a valuable lesson in judgment and the limits of our own ability to sometimes grasp a complete picture. My mother taught me in many ways to question my own perceptions and ask the bigger question of, “What am I not seeing?” She also cost me the trust and ultimately the friendship of a beloved childhood companion. Perhaps the even bigger lesson in those early stages of development was to become intimately aware of the fragile nature of security; mine was the consistency of rice paper.

In raising my own two daughters, I approached life’s lessons a little differently. Their world, while not perfect, was one of security. They were taught to examine their perceptions while trusting their intuition. Their feelings were affirmed, their thoughts were validated and for the most part, their ideas were celebrated. We respected their privacy, observed their boundaries and trusted them in their decision-making. Most importantly and perhaps most challenging, we protected them against the human and real world forces that too often seek to break the spirit of a child. Tending the inner soul has been my life’s work whether I am with children or adults, a single individual or the collective community. 

I was in the audience at a Science symposium this past spring when my daughter, Grace, at twenty-years-old, gave a presentation on cancer research. As I watched her confidently articulate complex concepts and connect to the eight hundred onlookers in ways that were real and meaningful and inspiring, I began to see her as someone other than my child. Before me, I witnessed this brilliant and courageous young woman with unlimited capacity. I think back on that moment often and what it was like to sit beneath that podium as her mother. It reminds me of the most significant calling of our own humanity, “Honor every child, including the one that forever lives within each one of us.”
 
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Copyright © 2018 Angela Engel, All rights reserved.


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