Love and a Cuss

A year ago today we held our first youth group. You can read about it here.
I guess I grew to love them…

Pulled from the archives.

April 2013

I had an interesting little session with God this weekend. I had to go for a walk and sit on a hill throwing pebbles at a pile of dung, hoping the noises the cow over there was making were not as disgruntled as they sounded.

The last thing I wanted was to be mauled by a mad bovine in the Mongolian countryside.

When you’ve packed 26 kids and their baggage into a bus for a weekend outside the city, there is more stuff there than backpacks and sleeping bags.

No one thinks about the MK who cuts. No one knows just how much of a social stretch this is for the kid who is sitting on their left. No one knows which pair of siblings is holding the secret that their family is moving in a month. Not across the street – across countries. Across the world.

What do you do with the girl who’s grandma just died?

What do you do with the boy who’s just been rejected by his best friend and girl of his dreams?

After about lap 6 around the hasha (the typical fenced yard) in the wind it’s become difficult to talk any more, I’m shivering so hard, but that’s okay because I don’t do much talking anyhow. I’m hearing the fears of moving to America or returning from a year in Canada. I’m hearing about best friends who were supposed to come back but now plans have changed. I’m hearing about parents who work hard. I hear about families that fight, brothers that have left and left wounds.

I hear 4 kids in a row tell me the hardest thing about living in Mongolia is that people come and go, but mostly they go. Families are on separate continents. Friends don’t stay. ‘Home’ is a confusion and fantasy.

These kids are incredible. They have a grit they do not know, and unique is too cliché a word for them. I see God’s masterpieces here.

And so after holding a kid in the wind for about the seventh time and organizing an impromptu game for the umpteenth, it was about time for my own walk. So I sat on a hill and said “shit – shit – shit” while bawling my eyes out for these kids whom I love.

Treatise on the Dragon

While cleaning out old files I found a piece from 2009 or 2010. Lest you think I am all dreary depression and seriousness here, I share with you my extravagant response to the age old question
“Dragons or Unicorns?” 

When posed with the query “Dragons or Unicorns?”, My choice was made in a split second, and as time passes I become more assured that it is justified. The more thought I put into this, the more obvious the answer is. All I will say about the competing mythical creatures, namely unicorns, is this: They are simply no match. Unicorns have a lot of hype and do…not much. Pose with a rainbow background. Stand in the light. Look Pretty. (Seriously! See google images if you don’t believe me). Dragons, I must argue, are a different story:

Dragons are fascinating.

They are visually captivating with a strange mix of the grotesque with beauty. People of all ages will look at a picture of a dragon and examine the claws, the intricate detail of the scales and the expression in his eyes. Dragons are fun to create. Anyone can make a dragon (yes folks, we’re talking about imagination. Work with me. You have one. Use it)!

Does your dragon breath fire? Is it a sleek and crafty dragon, or is it large and shy? Does it have spikes on it’s back? Are it’s wings soft and velvety or rigid and bony? Does your dragon change colour in the light? Does your dragon have a charming smile? (See ‘Toothless’ in “How to Train your Dragon. I wouldn’t have believed it possible either). There are dragons of all sizes, colours and shapes, with unique abilities and character traits. No dragon is the same!

Also varied in personality and character, every dragon has a different story. Though dragons are widely known for their ferocity, not all are nasty or evil (See Bill Peet’s “How Droofus the Dragon Lost his Head”). Granted, dragons of a gentle nature are perhaps of the rarer sort, but they still do exist! Many dragons are greedy, arrogant, sneaky, or downright cruel, but that’s part of what adds to their…ermm.. .charm? Well, alright, so ‘charm’ is pushing it. Let’s try “awe factor”.

A dragon is independent, and fiercely proud. They take risks. Fearless and strong, nobody tells a dragon what to do. They are not limited by mountain ranges or oceans, by politics or opinions. Dragons are free from rule, free from obligation, free from even the earth – for dragons can fly! The mystery and intensity of dragons draw attention from both dreamers and adventure seekers of all ages. No story is complete without a Dragon!

Dragons do not prance. Also, unlike other mythical creatures (ahem – aka U-n-i-c-o-r-n-s), dragon admirers are not all six-year old girls. The word “sparkles!” doesn’t pop into my head every time I hear the word ‘dragon’. Dragons are fighters. Real fighters. They have more to protect them than a long awkward cone sticking out of their forehead.

My closing statement? Dragons are cool. Ask anybody.

A Hug & Disgust

I would have let it slip had my co-worker not witnessed it.

I hated it. I hated having to bend down and quietly admonish her.

“You know, I’m not actually supposed to give hugs at work…”

With just those words I snuffed something in the brightest face in the room after she had impulsively rushed to give a quick, genuine hug around my waist to say good-bye. I still hugged back – how could I not? – and loved it, and her for it! – but I wasn’t supposed to.

The words hung over me. Protect yourself, protect the museum…No hugs, no high-fives, no touching. 

The entire exchange was less than ten seconds. From innocence to shame.

Dark and petite, her whole frame changed. It was subtle but I recognized it. She was like me when I was 8 years old. Eager to please. Looking up wholeheartedly. Exuberant but sensitive.

She cloaked the embarrassment well. It made me feel sick. I saw guilt in her eyes and it was wrong.

“I know you didn’t know. It’s okay Hannah!” I said it lightly to let her know she wasn’t in trouble. I’m not sure it worked. The damage was done.

I waved good-bye as she left with her mother and sister in their winter boots and moved right along to exchange pleasantries with a young family coming in as I cursed the rule and the world we live in.

2CAUTION

It is impermissible for me to take a toddler’s hand and turn him around to find mama.

My authority is my voice; I cannot stop a child unless it is verbal, lest my intentions be misinterpreted.

I cannot assist a child to put on a shoe without parental consent and I cannot roll a soggy sleeve up at the water table, even if the child can barely stand.

My priority is the safety of all, after that: my own “personal space bubble.”

Never mind the toddler who needs your knee to balance for half a second or the kid who steps on your foot.

That is contact. That is bad.

High fives come “at my own risk.” Next thing we know, smiles will be outlawed.

Doesn’t the world need all the love it can get? Yet we’re teaching kids to associate an expression of appreciation with guilt and shame.

I am disgusted. I am sad. I am discouraged.

But mostly I just wish I could tell my Hannah that the .75 second hug of hers was the best part of my day. And I would give her a tight squeeze back.