In September of 1999 I found myself in a preschool room for the first time since I myself was a preschooler. I was completing a required rotation before I would receive my master's degree that December.
As I walked into the preschool room filled with children with special needs and a handful of typically developing peer models, I remember thinking, "How hard could this be?"
Then one of those typically developing peer models walked up to me and said, "I can spin in circles until I throw up! Wanna see?"
Um…no… I did NOT want to see.
Clearly this was going to be more difficult than I thought.
Though my intention throughout graduate school had been to work with adult rehabilitation patients in a hospital setting, I quickly fell in love with these beautiful little preschoolers and spent the next 5 years working with them, right up until the point I had my own preschoolers.
I spent a total of 10 years with preschoolers, teaching others and raising my own. I can't tell you how many people through the years have told me that it is an age they could never work with, but I happen to love them!
I still get my preschool fix every wednesday when I help with the preschool choir at church. I have an absolute blast with these little balls of love!
A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to speak at a retirement center and then a few days after that at an assisted living center. This too is an age group many people through the years have told me they could never work with. But I loved my time with them. I loved sitting with them, hearing their stories, where they come from and the things they have done! I loved sharing with them the things I have learned and encouraging them to keep on growing. I had a blast with these older balls of love!
A week after speaking at the assisted living center I found myself speaking to the middle school kids at church. (apparently when you are in seminary you get all the speaking engagements no one else wants!) Yet another group that I have heard people say over and over again they could NEVER work with! I have to be honest here, this group kind of intimidates me too.
But here is what I have learned…from preschoolers…middle schoolers… and the elderly. I am thinking if it is true for these 3 very different groups, it must be true for just about everyone.
They just want to matter.
It made no difference if the person I was with was a preschooler, a young teen, or elderly. They just wanted me to look them in the eye, listen to what they had to say, and smile at them. They wanted to know I cared about them, about what they were thinking and that I enjoyed being with them.
It is a fact of the human condition that we desire to be loved, listened to and enjoyed, regardless of our age. The next time God is tugging at you to serve in some way and you find yourself saying, well, that's not really the age group for me, I challenge you to reconsider. Regardless of the age group, all they really need is for you too look them in the eye, listen to what they have to say, and enjoy being with them.
That is all any of us need.