It's my tradition to write a letter to the girls each year around this time. I tuck them away for them to read some day when they are older. This year though, I used this letter and changed a few personal details to make it more real for my kids (don't worry, the author of the original letter says here that she doesn't mind at all if you change it for your own use). I shared it with them this morning before they headed off to school. I am not going to lie...I cried. And I cried a lot. Not because they are growing up, or because I didn't want them to go. I cried because this world is so rough. Because as they grow, the job of navigating the world becomes our shared journey and will ultimately be their own path. I want so badly to give them the tools to walk that path in a positive way, leaving their mark on the world.
Today is a big day…the first day of school!
Ladies – When I was in third grade, there was a girl in my class named Megan. Megan looked a little different and she wore funny clothes and she had a funny rash on her skin. Megan didn’t smile. She hung her head low and she never looked at anyone at all. The other kids teased Megan a lot. Whenever they did, her head hung lower and lower and lower. I never teased her, but I never told the other kids to stop, either.
And I never talked to Megan, not once. I never invited her to sit next to me at lunch, or to play with me at recess. Instead, she sat and played by herself. She must have been very lonely.
I still think about Megan a lot. I wonder if Megan remembers me? Probably not. I bet if I’d asked her to play, just once, she’d still remember me.
I think that God puts people in our lives as gifts to us. The children in your class this year, they are some of God’s gifts to you.
So please treat each one like a gift from God. Every single one.
Kiddo, if you see a child being left out, or hurt, or teased, a part of your heart will hurt a little. Your daddy and I want you to trust that heart- ache. Your whole life, we want you to notice and trust your heart-ache. That heart ache is called compassion, and it is God’s signal to you to do something. It is God saying, Hey! Wake up! One of my babies is hurting! Do something to help! Whenever you feel compassion – be thrilled! It means God is speaking to you, and that is magic. It means He trusts you and needs you.
Sometimes the magic of compassion will make you step into the middle of a bad situation right away.
Compassion might lead you to tell a teaser to stop it and then ask the teased kid to play. You might invite a left-out kid to sit next to you at lunch. You might choose a kid for your team first who usually gets chosen last. These things will be hard to do, but you can do hard things.
Sometimes you will feel compassion but you won’t step in right away. That’s okay, too. You might choose instead to tell your teacher and then tell us. We are on your team – we are on your whole class’s team. Asking for help for someone who is hurting is not tattling, it is doing the right thing. If someone in your class needs help, please tell me. We will make a plan to help together.
When God speaks to you by making your heart hurt for another, by giving you compassion, just do something. Please do not ignore God whispering to you. I so wish I had not ignored God when He spoke to me about Megan. I remember Him trying, I remember feeling compassion, but I chose fear over compassion. I wish I hadn’t. Megan could have used a friend and I could have, too.
Girls – We do not care if you are the smartest or fastest or coolest or funniest. There will be lots of contests at school, and we don’t care if you win a single one of them. We don’t care if the other girls think you’re cute or whether you’re picked first or last for kickball at recess. We don’t care if you are your teacher’s favorite or not. We don’t care if you have the best clothes or most Pokemon cards or coolest gadgets. We just don’t care.
We don’t send you to school to become the best at anything at all. We already love you as much as we possibly could. You do not have to earn our love or pride and you can’t lose it. That’s done.
We send you to school to practice being brave and kind.
Kind people are brave people. Brave is not a feeling that you should wait for. It is a decision. It is a decision that compassion is more important than fear, than fitting in, than following the crowd.
Trust me ladies, it is. It is more important.
Don’t try to be the best this year.
Just be grateful and kind and brave. That’s all you ever need to be.
Take care of those classmates of yours, and your teacher, too. You Belong to Each Other. You are such lucky ladies . . . with all of these new gifts to unwrap this year.
I love you so much that my heart might explode.
Enjoy and cherish your gifts.
And thank you for being my favorite gift of all time.