I saw the movie “Rocketman.” It told the story of Elton John from a child to the present. The music, of course, was excellent. The storytelling was creative and fit the subject matter. It was very well made.
A couple scenes could have been shorter with less detail but not really left out to tell the whole story. It is not for children but it has a message for adults about children. It is message that has been said for a long time by educators, counselors, clergy, other parents and what we already know instinctively.
Adults are made in childhood. The words they hear, the love they get or don’t, the daily experiences, parents, other adults, other children, all have a bearing on the perception of life and choices made. You can recover and heal as an adult but you can never undo, unhear, unsee, the situations of childhood. They play over and over as a movie reel out of control in our mind with its own schedule and duration.
As adults, we are charged with guarding the world of the very young. We are the keepers of the gate to the development of those children in our care. Judgement, negativity, withholding of emotion, neglect of the spirit of childhood, cruel words should not enter. Once inside, they stay forever. If a child has food and shelter but not words of encouragement, creativity, given time and, most of all, shown love, then they are neglected children.
We do not have to be a parent to lift up a child or teenager. A kind word, sometimes just recognition of a talent or compliment, can go a long way to a child who is struggling for acceptance.
An elderly woman gave a very generous donation to the school. I did not know her previously. She had volunteered a few times at the school and liked the way we treated the students and our philosophy of education. When I asked her why she would do such a thing, she told a story of a teacher in first grade telling her she was not smart and she said it impacted her entire educational process. She remembered it over 70 years. She said she could still feel how she felt that day. Our words must be chosen carefully. They stay in the air forever.
I don’t remember much about school in my younger years. I do remember getting in trouble once in kindergarten (talking). Twice in first grade I got in trouble ( talking) for helping others try to do their work. I was finished with mine and the class could not go on until all had finished. In second grade, I made the only D I ever made in my life. I cried at recess. I also remember the red head boy who could draw well. I could not. It was pointed out by the teacher.
In third grade, I was so engrossed in reading a book I did not hear for the call to stand for the pledge of allegiance. It was my second day in the new school and the teacher yelled at me. I was mortified and did not
read for fun again in the class. I don’t remember any parties at school, none of the lessons, no other events until fourth grade and up, but those have stayed with me.
I am not devastated by them but they weren’t every day for me and not my only interactions with adults or the world. Some children only hear negative and demeaning words, every day, from many adults. That is harder to overcome.
I challenge you to be the adult who says a kind word to every child you see. It may be the difference of a good life later, or even life and death.