Everyone who thinks our children are going to “hell in a hand basket” should have seen what I was privileged to witness just a few weeks ago at a local bowling alley. It was truly a delightful scene involving 140 Girl Scouts from every racial and ethnic group, ranging in ages from five through 14.
As I arrived, the 9- and 10 year olds were first to find their assigned lanes. They were busying themselves with shoe exchanges, coat placements, bowling ball choices, signage issues and snack logistics that assisted in getting these green vested girls organized. Within a few minutes, nearly a 100 other adults and children suddenly descended upon the bowling alley with their accompanying noise. Soon thereafter, the rest of those who had been involved in this gathering arrived with their parents, guardians, troop leaders and volunteer helpers.
As this embodiment of mostly prepubescent energy entered my line of sight, one particular group garnered the majority of my attention. It was a bunch of blue smocked five year old “Daisies.” Though the Daisies presumably were limited to just that one age group, there were also a few younger brothers and sisters along for the ride.
As I watched, two group dynamics became starkly apparent to me. The first involves the mastery of multitasking. Debbie, the adult leader of the Daisies, had the uncanny ability to demonstrate a level of patience and concentration that could only be described as “Are you kidding me?”
Within a matter of minutes, she had every child in place, each parent in his or her proper observation location, the photographer organized and all smocks tied properly on each participant – not to mention any number of noses wiped and potential disagreements curbed. As she was sharing final instructions regarding the who, what, where and how of the next couple of hours, her own daughter, Marisa, came up to her with bowling shoes in hand and proceeded to lie down in front of her while raising her feet in the air. “Super Debbie” put her daughter’s shoes on without missing a beat – or even looking at her own daughter – and continued addressing those around her.
The second dynamic that became obvious is these young girls were far more delighted by the excitement of the fellowship opportunity then they were by the bowling itself. That is when my focus became drawn to a mom named Mona and her three year old daughter, Samantha. As I gazed slightly to my right toward the next age group of young “almost” bowlers, I saw Mona on her knees at the very end of the approach area and standing next to her was an outrageously adorable little girl who barely came up to Mona’s eyebrows.
Samantha was so excited about her upcoming attempt at throwing the ball toward the other end of the lane, she could hardly stand still.
Mona had Samantha hold the brightly colored featherweight ball in her diminutive hands. After a few words of encouragement, the three year old turned in the general direction of the opposite end’s pin placement and with a few more “I know you can do it” comments of exhortation she let that ball “zoom” down the lane at the supersonic speed of about a quarter of a mile per hour. After it slightly went off center, the ball miraculously corrected itself and proceeded down the center of the lane. Due to the lack of Samantha’s three year old muscle mass, it took forever for that orange sphere to make its way to the appointed goal. However, when that ball eventually arrived, it did manage to knock down a few pins. Needless to say, Samantha’s mother and the older girls around her went absolutely nuts with enthusiasm.
When little Samantha saw her mother’s positive response and the other girls open excitement for her effort, she began to jump up and down. She gave her mother a huge elongated hug with an attached kiss. She literally screamed with joy, and then ran over to, who I found out later, were her older sister and two of her friends and initiated “high fives” with every hand offered.
Wow, was she excited! She had experienced the thrill of personal acceptance, empowering involvement, open encouragement and the rewards of her efforts. And what happened next was the most important event of the night.
Mother Mona told the three year old she had one more turn, and Samantha was thrilled. She ran up to her mom who was holding the ball, took it and then with all her might and precision let it go. The ball sailed down the lane at exactly the same pace. As soon as the ball left her hands, Samantha began to sense the excitement of what she was involved in – and it mattered nothing to her that the ball she had just released was nowhere near the center of the lane. It didn’t matter that no pins were going to be struck at all. It didn’t matter one bit!
Samantha was jumping up and down with the exact same excitement, the exact same hugs and kisses, the exact same high fives. She could have cared less about bowling and its immediate goal of pin displacement. She was there to be valued and encouraged and that is exactly what she received.
Only a cold-hearted fool would have been unimpressed by the tremendous scene that was being played out before me.
I began to sense two conflicting sets of emotions. One involved the obvious joy in sharing Samantha’s excitement and her mother’s commitment to validating her efforts, while the other involved disappointment. My disappointment involved the reality that far too many of our churches have abdicated their privilege of providing this same type of environment for our children. If the Girl Scouts can provide this kind of environment of growth, affirmation, training and empowerment, so should we.
There is not one good reason, merely excuses, why our churches have stopped accomplishing these same types of successful efforts.
Kudos to the Girl Scouts! And to church leaders… WAKE UP! Peace.