Get more out of life by caring for the kids around you - Kyle Hanawalt
First in series: The Return to the Davis Theater
I was recently thinking back on my childhood, and a memory popped into my head that honestly I hadn’t thought of in years.
But, as soon as it came into my head I just smiled.
I don’t know if you ever experience that. How just sitting in a good memory for moment can bring about a smile or chuckle.
Well, my memory was of a time when I was pretty young, I think like 1st grade.
I know that is pretty young to still be remembering this today, but it was one of those stories that has been kinda retold by me and parents throughout my life. And so, that storytelling has kinda held it in my mind with a level of extra clarity.
So, I grew up in a family that went to church every Sunday, And so on Sunday, I was at church in the kids program, kinda like we have set up the classroom across the hall.
I was, let’s say, an energetic boy. I had a hard time sitting still.
In fact, as you may have notice I still do have a hard time sitting still
And this kids church program seemed to require an extraordinary amount of sitting still
So, I had this thing, I game a created where I would try to escape the kids program.
I would wait until they adults were distracted and I would try and sneak out the door.
In fact, I would try to rally other kids to sneak out with me.
It was the most fun game.
Although, less fun I’m sure for the adults in the room who were responsible for us at the time.
I actually remember one time where me and a couple other boy had succeeded, we had actually army crawled all the all the way to the door so the adults couldn’t see us and once we got to the door, we jumped up and ran.
By the time the adults saw us we were out of the room and down the hall.
We ran into the bathroom nearby and hid there until we got bored and went back to the room.
For obvious reasons, the adults were super upset. And they had called our parents to the room who were also really upset.
But, right before my parents dragged me away, this one adult who was the main person in charge of the kids,
A woman who I actually still know today, pulled me aside and said something that really stuck with me.
I was afraid that she was going to yell at me or something, but instead she told me something alongs of, “You are a wonderful boy, I think you are great, and I am sure that you are going to grow up to be wonderful man. You see today how you got those other boys to follow you out the room. One day, I think you are going to use that same ability to make a difference in this world.” And then she gave me hug.
Then I ran off to whatever punishment was awaiting for me with my parents.
Now, I am not sure how truthful her prediction ended being.
But, her words, her encouragement did a lot to shape me.
It filled me with a sense of worth and meaning.
Whether it was true or not, it made me feel like I could make a difference in the world.
It took this little overly energetic, often reprimanded boy, and made him feel like his energy was an asset, something good, not something to be quelled, or embarrassed by.
It made me feel like who I was, the person I was created to be, was worth something.
You may or may not know, it can be hard being a little boy who can’t sit still. School, church, pretty much all of the world around you is telling you to SIT DOWN, STOP MOVING, BE QUIET.
But here, this women gave me the belief that my energy could be used, and could be funneled into something awesome.
And you know what, that experience also did a lot for how I saw and understood God.
This was a kids program at a church. Outside of my parents, the people who led such a program were, whether they knew it or not, going to have probably the largest influence on how I understood God.
Yes, her words were meaningful. But, her demeanor, her tone, her stature towards me. That is what the biggest impact.
That maybe God was like that too, he was patient, encouraging, saw possibility where others saw things that needed redirection.
And That if he did redirect it was full of love and affection, and desire for my good.
You know today, when I pray and have a thought stick in my head, and I wonder “is that God?” My biggest indicator that it may be is that it feels like that moment with that woman. It has that warmth, hope, peace to it.
You see, for me, for all of us. It is the experiences of our youth that most shape us. The things we internalized when we were little.
If you were with us for the opening video today.
You heard Dr. Brene Brown in her now famous TED talk. Where she described what she called whole-hearted, people who live full and wholehearted lives.
Well, she is a researcher who studied thousands of people to figure out what all these wholehearted people had in common.
And there was only one variable that separated the people who have a strong sense of love and belonging and the people who really struggle for it. And that was, the people who have a strong sense of love and belonging believe they're worthy of love and belonging. That's it. They believe they're worthy.
And that sense of worthiness is most distinctly and powerfully developed in our childhood. Nothing has more effect on our sense of worthiness than whether we felt worthy and accepted as kids.
You may wonder why I am talking so much about childhood. Well it’s because this is something that has been on our mind as we are thinking through some the transitions that BLV is about to go through.
You may or may not be aware that Welles park is our temporary home, as we wait to return to the Davis Theater this fall, just up the street, once their renovation is completed.
Which is gonna be awesome. Nice bathrooms, enjoyable lobby, it's like our church is getting a facilities upgrade we didn't have to pay for
And so over the next three weeks, Vince, Nader, and I will be talking about a few different areas that will be affected by this transition back to the Davis.
And one of those areas that I want to focus on today, is that of how we as a community care for our kids, and some of the steps forward we are planning on taking.
Everyone wants to have a positive impact on the world.
Maybe we struggle believing that any of our efforts will actually make a difference, or maybe we struggle to know what we can actually do.
But, I believe that each of us deep down wants to be part of something, wants to be someone who leaves this world, this city, our family, or a relationship better-off than it was before we arrived.
And I think that we may tend to think that whatever it takes to make a difference, it is likely some sort of heroic effort. Or, at least it’s going to take more than I have to offer.
But, here is the thing.
The biggest impact we can have, may also be the simplist.
Maybe it’s not about being powerful or heroic, maybe it’s as simple as what that women at my church did for me when I was child
You know, this makes me think of an interaction from the life of Jesus that I would love to read with you now. Something that I think has some super relevant and accessible application for us today.
So, if you would like to read along with me, I will be reading from Mark 9, which you will find in your programs.
33 After (Jesus and the Disciples) arrived at Capernaum and settled in a house, Jesus asked his disciples, “What were you discussing out on the road?” 34 But they didn’t answer, because they had been arguing about which of them was the greatest. 35 He sat down, called the twelve disciples over to him, and said, “Whoever wants to be first must take last place and be the servant of everyone else.”
We see the disciples having a conversation that reveals one of the most basic truths of the Human condition.
We want to feel important, we want to feel like we are worthwhile, we want to feel like we can impact this world around us.
But they, like I so often do, think that the way to do that is to be powerful, to be at the top, it’s dependent on their status.
Surely, it is better to have higher status.
I would bet that the disciples even had good motives for this too. These people weren’t the religious elite of the day. They were a mix of what we today would call blue collar & white collar workers. The appeal of Jesus to everyday Jewish people in that day was that he was instituting something world-changing that THEY of all people could be a part of. So they pretty admirably left stability behind to follow Jesus They wanted to be part of that change. They wanted to see this good news of Jesus spread.
I think it is likely that the thought process was something like, “I want to be greatest among us so I can have the greatest impact, I can do the most for God.”
But even if this is is the case, if we grant that they could have had some sort of altruistic motives
Jesus reveals that they miss the point.
He flips it around.
Saying that those who want to be first, must be last.
Interesting... clearly a rebuke on what they were doing but what exactly does that mean?
Well, I think he addresses that in what he says next, so let’s keep reading.
36 Then he put a little child among them. Taking the child in his arms, he said to them, 37 “Anyone who welcomes a little child like this on my behalf welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me welcomes not only me but also my Father who sent me.”
So, the disciples were just arguing over who would be the greatest among them. Who among them would have the greatest impact for God, who among them is in the best standing with Jesus.
And and in the face of that Jesus offers this flow of logic.
When you welcome a child, then you welcome me, and when you welcome me you welcome my father.
He is saying - you want be the greatest in my eyes, you want to be first in the eyes of the father.
You want to participate in all that I have come here to do.
You want to be part of my redemptive plan, you want to be greatest of my followers, who changes this world.
Then care for this child.
This is particularly powerful because in that day children were in many ways an afterthought until they were old enough to contribute to the household.
They were the least important, had the least status.
So, how do we become the greatest?
It’s not about being powerful, not about being a hero, but embracing the small things in front of us as a servant does. Looking to care for what is right in front of us.
When we see ourselves as the least, it makes everything else in the world worth serving and caring for. Nothing is beneath us.
AND, for us personally, taking on an identity of “least rather than greatest” sets ourselves up to enjoy every victory, every small picture of good and beauty and growth… because we’re not preoccupied with delusions of grandeur that make the small things feel less-than-great
And if by chance some of us do reach a level of grandeur, culturally-speaking, we will receive that not as our right or something we’re entitled to, but as an incredible gift and privilege that we in no way earned
And so Jesus says: accept a child, care for a child. serve a child.
For the disciples, there was no status in that, there was no power in that.
But, that is exactly Jesus’ point.
It is in the simplest acts of care, the things that garner no status, it is in these things that we are able to most participate in God’s redemptive work in the world.
It’s in caring for old
It’s in helping a struggling neighbor
It’s in hugging a friend in need
It’s in speaking forgiveness to someone who has wronged us
It’s in caring for the Children around us
I think of study that I came across a couple years ago done by Johns Hopkins
In this study they found that the more adults in a child’s life, the higher the emotional intelligence that child had when they grew up.
The more adults that a child had in their life, just their mere presence. Increases their ability to relate and connect when they grew up.
They didn’t study the quality of connection
Or the kind of relationship they had with the adult.
No, just the number of adults that were in a child’s life on a regular basis.
And the study found, that simply having their presence in a child's life had a direct correlation to their emotional intelligence.
I think this is huge because we can have an impact simply by being there.
You don’t have be highly skilled
You don’t have to well spoken
You don’t have to be anything.
You just have to be there.
And I think this is kinda refreshing personally. I find it super exciting to think that I can make a real difference in the world, and I don’t have to be some hero or super capable person to do it.
That by simply looking at the small opportunities in front of me. I can partner with Jesus in having a very real impact
Not only does that mean I can try to make a difference in the world around me, which is great.
But, I have found that it also makes a difference in the experience of my own life.
You may or may not know that I just took a part time job helping run a before school program for elementary age kids.
Providing breakfast and tutoring for kids that may be helped by that.
Well over the summer we offered swim lessons for any kids who would like to learn.
So, I go in the Y a couple hours on Saturday and get to hang out with kids who are learning to swim.
I will tell you, every week I do that I walk away feeling alive, I may be tired, but life feels fuller.
I don’t mean to say it’s always great, for it can often be challenging, and sometimes heartbreaking,
And very often we may not actually get to witness any impact we have - often it will only be years later that a child may recognize your investment.
It wasn’t until a few years ago myself that I told that women at my church how meaningful her investment was to me,
Or it may also be that they never actually recognize your investment, or you don’t ever actually get to see what kind of impact you had.
All say, I think as that John Hopkins study showed, our investment does have an impact, we just may never get to see it.
However, if we look to the way that investment impacts our own soul, I think we will discover life.
In terms of a fuller deeper life, our pursuit here at BLV. There are very few things that have the as much return on the investment as Kids.
One thing my mind always goes to when I think about this there are those of us here in this room, that they, themselves did not receive the care and investment that they deserved when they were a child.
And I think that Jesus words are powerfully meaningful in this case too.
I think his words show that it is his heart for every child to be welcomed, accepted, cared for, and if you did not get that, it breaks his heart.
I have really good friend who told me about how he experiences this.
He had a challenging childhood, he did not grow up with that sense of worth and care that Brene Brown Spoke of.
And for him, some of the more meaningful and consistent experiences of faith that he has had are times where he felt as if God was communicating care, acceptance, and worthiness as a parent to him. A sense of God meeting the needs that were never met when he was child.
And he told me as story which I think is one of the better pictures of the redemptive nature of God’s work in the world.
Right before he became a father, he had a moment where he felt as if God was telling him, “You know all those things you didn’t receive as a child, you know all the care and acceptance that you didn’t receive. Well, because of all the work of healing you have done, because of the care you experienced from me, NOW YOU CAN BE THAT for another child. You can be to them what you never had. You can help a child experience the worthiness, and acceptance that you longed for but didn’t find.
When we talk about the redemptive work of God, that he is one who restores brokenness, pushes back against pain of the world.
This is what we are talking about.
And I think there is something deeply meaningful and consoling in that.
That we can give out of our own deficits and that our own brokenness can be an agent of healing for others, and in turn God will use that to heal and restore us.
So, I think regardless of who we are in this room there is a ton of opportunity for us, for our lives when we invest in the kids around us.
So, This has been on our minds as we think about our move back to the Davis
Our Childcare needs are growing so our childcare program needs to grow
We are expanding our childcare to ages 0-5
And we are adding a program of Sunday School activities for pre-schoolers
This means that the kids who come here will have more than supervision, but will have lessons that help them understood that there is a God who loves and cares for them, A God who thinks they are awesome.
We will also be doing some more formalized training with our childcare staff, careful to insure a philosophy of care, and appropriate understanding of child development.
For we know that even more than what we say, the kids at BLV will learn about God through what we do. How we treat them.
And then lastly what we need from the community is more volunteers.
In order to do this well, in order to implement these things, we need more people. More people to make sure our kids are supervised and safe
But, also more people to be investing in their lives.
And we want to have an easy onramp for this.
First, we require background checks for anyone who with our kids, and to make that easy, we will have a table set up after the service with short background check consent forms. So, all you have to do is fill it out before you leave this morning.
That doesn’t mean that you are committed to anything, only that if you did want to volunteer later with our kids, you would be good to go.
Secondly, we will be having a Child Care training next Saturday the 13th from 10am to noon.
This is for our childcare employees, but we want to open it to anyone interested. It is not required for our volunteers, but I think you could find it super helpful
Keziah Brackett, who has a masters in Early Childhood education will be teaching this.
So, I think it will be great.
And this bring me to my take away for today
Invest in the children in your life
Maybe it is here at BLV
Please consider filling out the form after the service and being one our childcare volunteers.
In fact if everyone did that here today, you would only have to volunteer like once or twice a year.
Or, maybe invest in any Nieces or Nephews
I can’t tell you how meaningful it can be to have an uncle or aunt take you out for a day.
Or, maybe invest in a friend’s child.
The person I am today has a lot to do with the many number of my parents friends that decided to invest in me.
OR, perhaps Invest in a friend or family member of yours who is a parent
being a parent is hard
It’s one of those things that is only really possible to do with the support of other people.
Maybe just offer to drop off dinner some time this week for a friend with kids.
For, In supporting the parent you are in a very real way supporting their kids.
Well, in moment I will pray, and we will enter into a time of singing and prayer. Something that spiritual communities have done for centuries. And I invite you to engage in that time in whatever way feels best to you. Maybe it is singing along and dancing. Maybe it is just sitting back and letting the music hit you. And, as we are doing that we will have a team of people in the back who would love to pray with you, It can be a really meaningful thing to have somebody else pray along with you. And I have found that God tends to show up in surprising and powerful ways when I have asked someone else to pray for me. It’s a safe and good group of people, no one is going to make you feel uncomfortable or give you unasked for advice.
So if you will stand with me