Of course, this definition applies to good literature – as any who even muddled through high school English can attest. But Donald Miller doesn’t write fiction; he’s an essayist and a memoirist so he writes about his life and his view of the world from his little corner in it. And he sees each person’s life as a story – an account being written in time wherein an individual is the protagonist seeking things of personal value that he will do almost anything to obtain. Miller also believes – as do we at Celebrate Kids – that no life is an accident; he understands that each story has an Author with an intentional plan for working it out to a logical, satisfying conclusion. And with that in mind, he posits that even the seemingly mundane parts of our lives hold meaning.
Without a doubt, this idea has countless applications. But in terms of our relationships with the children in our lives – our own kids and our students – what does it mean?
For one thing, it suggests that parts of all our stories – theirs and ours – are written through each and every interaction we have, each and every day. So, when I responded to Sivilay’s panicked call one Saturday morning, when no one else could take him to his music competition…when I accepted Lee’s Facebook friend request several years after I’d last had her as a student…when I praise one daughter for her artistic ability and the other for her musical talent, I contribute positively to their stories and to my own. On the other hand, when I grow impatient because one daughter struggles playing piano or the other forgets some of her phonics knowledge…when I failed to help Elida as I saw her getting involved with the wrong crowd…when I didn’t write to Abraham after he’d landed in juvenile detention…well, I contribute to their stories in a negative way – and taint my own tale as well.
Of course, the realization that every interaction we have with the young people in our lives affects their stories and our own can be overwhelming and intimidating; after all, none of us wants to hurt the kids we love – and we want to be pleased with how our own lives are “written” – but it’s impossible to be anywhere near relationally perfect. And we don’t need to be…because the Author can and does use even bad experiences for ultimate good. However, knowing that even the little things we do – or don’t do – make an impact should cause us to think twice before we speak or act and to live more intentionally with the children in our care.
Perhaps that’s a good goal for us all as we commence a new year and decade.