Piece By Piece, By Peace
I am the very fortunate Godfather to 14 children, all of whom I love as if they were my own. While my wife and I only had one child of our own, who we lost 12 weeks into pregnancy, we have always been grateful for the kids that have come into our lives over the years, especially those whose parents entrusted us to fill the role of Godparents to their own children. All of our Godchildren are unique, distinct, and unrepeatable, and they all bring joy into our lives. In all the work Janna and I have done together as Godparents and foster parents, one of the things that has always personally been important to us is to ensure that every one of our Godchildren knows at least 5 things above all else. These are as follows:
You are important.
You are smart.
You are strong.
You are beautiful.
You are loved.
Why are these things so important to us? We know full well that life is hard and filled with both joy and pain, but we know even more so that often such pain comes from the brutal ways in which hurt people hurt one another, intentionally or not. Having worked with hundreds of kids and families over the years – Janna as a licensed social worker and camp counselor for a time, and me as a youth and camp director – we have met many cases of verbal abuse. Of all the horrible ways in which people can tear one another down, words are by far one of the most damaging, and often leave wounds that take years to heal. Sadly, these wounds also often go unnoticed, because the outward signs are not visible like other forms of abuse. Words can be healing or they can be violent. They can leave a type of emotional shrapnel that damages a person’s sense of self-worth, self-esteem, and overall feeling of value, taking them apart piece by piece. This shrapnel will eventually work its way to the surface and come out in different ways, affecting the person and their relationships for years to come, but only after it has burrowed deep into that individual’s heart and psyche.
In our experience, both in our own lives and in our work with others, the only way we have found to counteract this kind of damage is through a process of restoration that involves raising the abused person up and restoring them through words and actions that heal, piece by piece, offering a safe, peaceful, loving, and encouraging environment where what is heard and seen paints a very different picture – one of worth, value, acceptance, and love. By creating a place of beauty and harmony around us, physically and emotionally, we can give others the opportunity to rest and begin to heal from their wounds.
In the end, as Stephen Chbosky says, “We accept the love we think we deserve.” If all we ever hear are words that tell us that we are worthless, than we start to believe that we only deserve someone who would stoop low enough to love a nobody like us, or even worse, that we are unworthy of love at all. Nothing could be further from the truth, but unfortunately, especially these days, with cyberbullying and many in high positions modeling verbal abuse as a lifestyle and teaching others that this is acceptable behavior, we have our work cut out for us to let others know their own worth, because, when someone does not experience that love and feeling of value, they often go on to hurt others in the same way that they have been hurt, and the abuse cycle continues. We live in a time when so many value power over humility, and cruelty is greater than kindness; a time of fierce threats and random acts of violence, and multitudes of people live day-to-day in a fog of despair that never seems to lift…oppressive and dark. The only way to break through it is to be the light that pierces the darkness, no matter the cost. We must be, as Bruce Cockburn says, “Lovers in a dangerous time.”
So, for my Godchildren, for my family and friends, for all that I meet and those I have yet to meet – know that I think you are important, you are smart, you are strong, you are beautiful, and you are loved – and I hope that you will share that love with everyone else around you, and help to create the beauty that will restore your surroundings and your soul. The world needs lovers and healers now more than ever and we need one another like never before, to work to raise and restore the broken people and places all around us, and cause the paths between them to rest…piece by piece…by peace.