"Janey" is a pretty little girl. She's ten, tall for her age, with big brown eyes and shiny black hair. She first came to group about three years ago. When she played outside, she was active, a little aggressive, and smiled all the time. In group, she looked down, rarely talked and didn't want to do a "story".
She eventually began to share her frustration with school, how hard it was for her and how much she hated it. Occasionally, when she was upset, I met with her alone. Each individual meeting seemed, at most, to knock one brick off the wall she'd set up between her and me.
This year, she did story once, shared occasionally, and seemed to have decided I could be trusted.
The night I told the kids at the shelter I would be gone three or four weeks, she was one of two kids who uncharacteristically "blew up" before we left.
Her card was among the best in a well-done bunch of loving get-well cards the kids made for me. It showed me looking sad and walking toward a beautiful bed. There were balloons near the ceiling and slippers on the floor. Inside, her message was full of praise and love. More emotion than I'd ever seen her express, except in a crisis situation.
It goes to show that it's hard to know how much a child is taking in when you spend time with him or her. Almost impossible to tell how much is "getting through." Or what the child admires or doesn't like about you.
I'll be back at the shelter in a couple weeks. The children's cards made me realize that my time away from the shelter was a gift to all of us. Kids were confronted with loss but able to express their feelings more deeply.
What a gift to them and what a gift to me.