I received a text from someone volunteering at a camp that reaches out to underprivileged children. The text was asking for my prayers because this year the children attending the camp were more challenging than past years. Some of the adult volunteers were not recognizing them as challenging, but as disrespectful and difficult (and treating them as such).
This made me think of Brandon. I first started in ministry working in an after-school program at a church. Brandon was a 6-year-old first grader. He was a thin boy when tousled blond hair and full of energy.
Brandon’s challenged was that he did not like transitional moments of the afternoon. Every time there was a transition from gym to snack or from snack to Bible time or Bible time to playground, Brandon broke down. He couldn’t handle it. And as a result, the adult leaders couldn’t handle him.
I spent a lot of time with Brandon that school year. When the transitions got too rough, he’d run around the gym, arms in the air, yelling and screaming. Or he’d run to one of the bathrooms and lock himself in the stall. I always managed to talk it through with him, some days it took longer than others, and he’d go back to his group and join them in whatever activity they were engaged in.
Brandon was the youngest of two boys to a single mother. Their father had left the family and was long gone. Brandon’s mother hadn’t heard from his father in years and thus, was receiving no support from him. Brandon’s older brother learned to pin things he did onto Brandon so only Brandon would get into trouble. On top of all that, this 6-year-old was on a pretty heavy dosage of Ritalin every day.
The most important lesson I learned from Brandon in those early years of ministry was that each of us have to be grace-full. Colossians 4:6 says, “Let your speech always be gracious (full of grace), seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer everyone” (NRSV). We, through each of our actions and words, decisions and lack of decisions, are representing Christ to the younger generations no matter where we are; whether it’s at Target, Camp, or Church. We are expressions of His love and his grace. Their little ears and eyes are listening and watching all that we do. Are we providing a good image of the love and grace of Christ?
Brandon would end the school year on a positive note. His mother and I would consult most evenings about his behavior and how he was doing. Upon my urging, she would take him to another doctor for a second opinion and would learn that he did not have ADHD but instead was dealing with some pretty heavy anxiety issues. His medication changed and so did his perspective of his world.