We use the analogy of a family often as we talk about what UCA is. We’ve reached that stage as a growing family where we no longer fit in the mini-van, we have members of our family whose hormones are changing, some have new body odors, our laundry is a never ending mountain and it’s all some unique blend of both terrifying and beautiful.
The first class of UCA scholars are now 5th graders who are nearly as tall as us. They used to come by my office on the daily asking for bandaids to fix imaginary problems...now they come asking for deodorant. The other day one of them was weeping in my office and said, “I just feel different and I’m so afraid I’m going to grow up to be a bad person.” It was hard not to laugh and hard not to cry. I wanted to just say, “Welcome to the world of adolecence my friend...you’ve got 10 to 80 years left of it so get cozy with all these new emotions because they aren’t going anywhere.” I wanted to cry because there are lots of days I feel this exact same way. It’s sobering to realize that the human experience isn’t boxed in by as many divides as we have created for ourselves. The young and the old, the rich and the poor, no matter what color your skin is or what job you have we’re all at some level trying to figure the same things out.
The fascinating thing is that there’s a point in life where we are cozy in our own skin, confident of the kind of person we are, a time when we are unafraid to dance and speak our mind and bless the world freely with all the magic that God put inside of us. The other day I asked a 5 year old what she was grateful for and she without hesitation said confidently, “Me!”
I started wondering why we call it growing up. I realize we do get taller and most plants grow in the direction of up and in most cases going up is better than going down. The problem is that the higher up we get the further we are away from the dirt that formed us and the roots that sustain us.
I don’t want the UCA kids to grow up. Instead, I want them to grow wide. Like hardy ground cover that never forgets the beauty and richness of the soil. That stays close and intimately connected with its roots. I don’t want them to grow so tall that they lose connection with the 5 year old inside of them that is grateful that the world got to spend another day with their presence in it.
I could write a similar blog about the value of growing up and tall and strong and proud. All analogies are just us trying to make sense of a world that is constantly changing and that we are often not in control of. As we are watching kids grow up and lose touch with their inner child we’re realizing how long it’s been since our 5 year old self has come out to play. More sadly we’ve realized how many unkind words we’ve said to our inner child, how much blame we’ve placed on her, how much we’ve tried to grow up so we could numb the ache of that 5 year old’s heart.
I want to play in the dirt, to find utter delight in bubbles, to by mystified by the wonder of the unknown, to confidently ask for help when I’m hurting, to speak to the 5 year old girl that still lives inside of me with the same grace I speak to the physical kids around me. She was after all the one who bravely faced so many new things that have shaped me and led me to where I am today.
You’re reading this because you at some level are invested in the UCA story, you care about kids and we are so so grateful. Our prayer is that as you care about the kids around you that you also tend to the kid inside of you. Don’t grow up too much that you forget the smell of the dirt.