The adage “People will forget what you gave them, but they will never forget how you made them feel” is never truer than when you work with children. Never make the mistake of thinking that they aren’t listening to you and that your words have no impact. I learned this in the most marvelous way last Saturday at our Library Program.
We have a library for the families at one of the motels we provide service to. It’s a beautiful little room that management retrofitted for us. It looks just like a mini library. One of our adult clients voiced it best, “It’s so pretty it hurts”.
A little girl and her father came into our library for the first time. The girl was around 6 years old. We explained how the library worked and that she could check out 2 books that needed to be returned in two weeks. She did and off they went. About 45 minutes later they came back because she had already finished one of the books and wanted to check out another one. We were delighted to help her.
She then came to me with two more books and asked if she could check them out for her baby sister. I told her that she was a wonderful big sister to care so much about her baby sister that she wanted to bring her some books too. I praised her for being so kind and thoughtful. I made sure we had intense one on one eye contact while I was speaking to her.
She was a very shy little girl, but her face just opened up, she stood up straighter and she beamed at my words. She didn’t say anything, but I knew she had taken in everything I had said. I realized, not for the first time, what a blessing and responsibility it is to work with children. We have such an opportunity to reinforce behavior that will see them into their adult years with magnificent benefits.
I know this because I remember the times an adult in my life praised me when I was a little girl. I remember how my little heart expanded at their words.
Words are free, but their impact can last a lifetime. If we work with children, we need to make sure that impact is positive. You may never see that child again, but you can know that on that day, at that time, you made a difference.