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Family Talk: Widen your family of kids

Even if you already have children of your own, you can inspire other kids by showing them kindness and support. [Thinkstock]
Even if you already have children of your own, you can inspire other kids by showing them kindness and support. [Thinkstock]

Sometimes I hear from a reader of this column with a story or insight prompted by something I’ve written. In recent weeks I received the following letter that both encouraged and convicted me:

Dear Jim,

I always look forward to your wonderful, food for thought articles in the paper!

Your article about National Family Month was so on track — our kids today are in tough places in their young lives. I work in the OKC Public Schools in a very poor inner city school, most kids are being raised by single moms and or grandparents. Never enough money, food or clothing; so I and a couple of other teachers spend our own "dime & time" helping as many of our school families as possible; we do it with love and joy. One of my duties this past school year was to be outside in the mornings greeting everyone who entered the building — it was GREAT! The best part was that a lot of the parents would barely acknowledge their kids or me, never a “Good Morning,” “I love you” to the kids or “Have a Great Day!” This became a challenge to me. All kids need to feel loved and special. I started greeting parents, and each and every morning I always thanked them for being such awesome and caring parents. I meant what I said. I found something good to say about their kids. I told each child how special they were. “Good Morning Ms. Beautiful” to the girls and “Good Morning Good looking” to the young men. What surprised me the most was the reaction of the older kids, our 4th to 6th graders. If for some reason I didn't greet them they stood there and waited. "You forgot something, Ms. Lindsay!" Whenever I encountered a parent in the building, or talked to them on the phone, I always thanked them for being great parents and setting such good examples for their kids. Hopefully I made a difference in their lives. I'm not perfect, but I will do anything for “my kids" and firmly believe that we all need to feel special and loved every day. Your article reinforced this idea.

Thank You for reminding ALL parents to respect each other and their kids.

Ms. Lindsay’s letter encouraged me that there are people, like her, who have a wide family of kids. It convicted me that we don’t all have such a wide family. God bless teachers like this who spend their “dime and time” but also invest in the intangible of speaking life into the ears of children and parents. Proverbs 18:21 tells us “Death and life are in the power of the tongue,” and nowhere is that more true than in the words we speak to children. Not just our biological children but all “our kids.”

In his excellent book, “Our Kids,” Robert Putnam writes about his hometown in the 1950s: “High School graduation was, as usual, a community wide celebration, attended by 1,150 people. Family or not, the townspeople thought of all the graduates as ‘our kids.’ ”

See that collective belonging? It’s the same thing Ms. Lindsay said in her letter to me: “I would do anything for “my kids.” I think we need more of this collective kids attitude. Here’s your goal for the week: Widen your family of kids with words of encouragement and hope.

Jim Priest

Jim Priest is the CEO of Sunbeam Family Services, a 108-year-old nonprofit that provides a range of social services to support Oklahoma's most vulnerable people, including early childhood education, counseling, foster care and senior services. Jim... Read more ›

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