My little sister is twelve years old and she teaches me things all the time.
Recently, she was cut from the middle school volleyball team. She has never played before and made a brand new friend at a brand new school in an almost brand new state and decided to try something. That quiet courage, her simple bravery, that allowed her to put herself out into the world far enough to be rejected is amazing to me – a calculating, safe-playing, pro-con list maker. It is difficult to explain to her now why it is so exquisitely valuable to learn disappointment and resiliency at her stage in life. I know that it stings in this moment and my heart hurts for her. At the same time that I want her to learn hard things, I also want to shelter her from anything that could ever possibly hurt her. I want to wrap my arms around her and keep her safe forever, but I know that this isn’t in my power as a small, imperfect human being. As much as I sometimes wish it were, that’s not the way living works.
On her first day of 7th grade, she called to inform me excitedly that she didn’t get lost once on her maiden voyage of changing classes, a concept and a practice that is entirely new to her. She also made a brand new “best friend,” and reported that all of her teachers are “really cool and seem like they wont’ give that much homework.” I told her how proud I am of her for embracing her new unknowns with enthusiasm and passion, rather than trepidation and fear. I also gave her a teeny tiny reminder that school is supposed to be challenging and getting by doing the bare minimum won’t get her very far, because that’s just who I am (insert eye roll).
By the middle of the week, she called again. She told me that things at school were still great, but that she had noticed the same girl sitting alone at lunch each day and that it had bothered her because the girl seemed lonely. That day, my little sister invited the person sitting alone to her table with her new friends. She offered her a cracker from her lunch, the ultimate currency of friendship. Pride doesn’t begin to explain the experience of imagining this little person I have helped raised and watched grow display a simple act of kindness that likely had a tremendous impact on another human. She embraced an opportunity to take what little she had herself and share it.
The boldness in her generosity of spirit is extraordinary and I pray that it is something that doesn’t fade as she encounters more hardship and pain as her life progresses. I want to remind her every day that if she lets it, if she digs really deep, these pains will strengthen and soften her heart, allowing her generosity, her wisdom, and her courage to grow rather than causing her heart to harden from fear and hurt. I want to thank her for being my tiny mirror, very much her own person, but embodying so much of my own spirit. Mostly, I want to tell her to please continue to be brave and kind every single day just in case, amidst our travels, either of us ever forgets.