Two of the biggest lessons they taught me were to remember to simplify life and to always be full of wander. Now, I know those are natural instincts for kids and we lose that as we grow older, but I truly feel living by those two principles would make for a better life. I remember a little girl I fell in love while teaching VBS would always ask questions that I never knew the answer to, but they were things that I hadn't thought about since I was a little girl.
I know those questions may seem frivolous, and you may even think, "Well of course she thought those things. She was a kid after all." Maybe it was because I was on the cusp of becoming a teenager instead of a kid, and I was closer to that mindset, but those are instances I will never forget, and I always keep my mind open for situations like that when I'm around kids.
Working with my sorority's philanthropy, East Tennessee Children's Hospital, has been the best experience. We go visit patients in the oncology and hematology ward. Sometimes, we'll sit in the waiting room and play with kids while they're waiting to go back and receive treatments. Other times, we'll go door to door and visit kids who are temporarily staying at the hospital. While they are there under sad circumstances, you can often see them light up when you walk in. Some of them are just so excited, while others are semi-hiding their grins. However, it never fails for their parents to thank us and tell them how much it means to both the child and the parents to have visitors who are able to take their minds off the sickness if even just for a bit.
This semester, I started volunteering in the nursery at my church in Knoxville, Sevier Heights. This church has given me so much, and I wanted to give back and also spend time with kids, since I enjoy it so much. Especially getting back in the routine of working with kids in a church environment has touched me so much more than I ever thought it could. I'm learning the same lessons I did during those summers in middle school working as a VBS teacher but also so many more. I'm the first one to go on and on about how awesome kids are, and some people just don't have it. They bring out all the cons about kids, and I'm not going to lie. There are some. There are kids who want it their way all the time, don't know how to share with other kids or just won't talk to you no matter how hard you try. But aren't some adults like this as well? Everybody's different, and especially children at the age I've been working with, two and three year olds, grow at different times. But it's nice to know that, for the most part, the kids listen when you ask them to stop doing something they shouldn't be doing or start doing something they should be doing. Although they may still be working on things, most of them know how to listen and end up respecting me, because I've asked or told them to do something. However, for all the not-so-fun times, there are a million more fun things and little moments that make it all worth it. I've heard lots of awesome and hilarious interpretations of Bible stories, I've learned that kids love when you help them make cool shapes with Play-Do, anything can be turned into a simple gamme that keeps them entertained for a long time and nothing means more to me than the hugs I get as the kids both enter and leave the classroom.
My friends have always called me the mom of the group, and I have even been dubbed Mama Jules. My friends also make fun of the way I act as a mother toward animals. I can't help but point out a cute child whenever I see one and wave at it and tell the parents how adorable it is. I know I'm meant to be a mom one day and will be a great one. If there's one thing I'm sure of in life, it's that. It's not just an, "Oh yeah, I think I'll have kids some day down the road." No, it's a thing I feel called to do and do it well. Maybe it's because I have the world's best mom and want to give my kids the life my mom gave me. I don't know, but I have always had that need to nurture and provide for something other than myself. For now of course, I'll settle with working with my church babies, but I can't wait to live life through my children's eyes and learn all the things I know they'll teach me. Kids are great, and I encourage everybody to spend just a little bit of time with a kid and discover what you could learn from them. You may be surprised.