Monday, September 5, 2011

“Gearing Up” for Back to School

(This is what I wrote for the church newsletter this month)

In the cycle of the year for most families, the school schedule is a driving force. And here we are, in “Back to School Season”, with the kids going back to school, the young adults headed off to college, and an adjustment in everyone’s schedules and routines. We follow that same schedule for the church year, so there is a gear up of church activities and programs as well.

I am currently being inundated with catalogs for all my Back to School Shopping. Catalogs full of backpacks, kids clothing, lunch boxes, and art supplies are stuffed in my mailbox, along with schedules from ballet schools, the community center, the YMCA, and multiple other places my kids could go take an extracurricular class this fall. The stores are full of it all as well. And yet a friend recently commented that she wished she could “buy a good attitude at [giant box store]”.

You can’t buy a good attitude from a catalog or a box store. There is no line on the Back to School shopping list for “curiosity”, or “cheerfulness”, or even “energy and resiliency” (although good nutrition and sleep might help that one). And yet all of these intangibles will probably matter more than what brand of jeans your daughter is wearing or whether your son has a cool lunch box or not.

It’s not just this time of year that presents us with this conundrum. As our culture is increasingly consumer-oriented and materialistic, every time of year presents us with a new shopping list and a chance to go out and buy something, and most projects or goals come with a shopping list as well. Want to get in shape? Buy a new workout outfit. Want to get organized and clean the house? You’ll probably need to go buy some cool plastic containers first. But you still can’t buy the motivation or the follow-through to actually get those projects done.

So I am making a Back to School list that has nothing to do with shopping:

  • · A lively sense of curiosity and desire to learn
  • · A welcoming and safe community for all our children
  • · Trustworthy and inspiring adults in every child’s life
  • · Enough time to Just Be
  • · Silliness and laughter and fun
  • · Time spent Outside, in connection to nature
  • · Acceptance of each child’s special uniqueness
  • · Dreams to dream, ideas to ponder, and mysteries to explore

I suppose a pencil and paper wouldn’t hurt, as well, but there you have it. How can we give that to our children? How can that be there for ALL children? That is the Back to School project we should give our time and attention to. And that is what I hope all our children will find as they go back to school this month. Happy Back-to-School to you all!

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