Last week, I volunteered at a 3-day Arts and Crafts Camp for girls from Children’s Homes in Seoul.
It seemed like a good thing to do, to love on some girls who don’t usually get a lot of one-on-one attention, but I had no idea how much I would be blessed by the experience.
There was just so much love flowing in that room!
Most of the kids who live in Children’s Homes aren’t technically orphans. Their families simply either can’t or don’t want to take care of them. Naturally, these girls wrestle with feelings of rejection and insecurity. They don’t open up to new people easily. I was little nervous going into the camp, because I wasn’t sure how I would love on them when I’m not particularly good at arts and crafts and my Korean is pretty limited, but this experience reminded me that love transcends those things. It just needs to be persistent and sincere.
I was partnered with a fairly open, creative, fun-loving girl, so I didn’t have to cajole her into participating in the activities (like some of the other volunteers did). She had a lot of energy and would run away from me sometimes, but she always told me when she was going to the bathroom (instead of running off alone, which she wasn’t supposed to do) and she would help clean up without even being asked. The sweetest moment, though, was when I was bending down to glue gun something for her and suddenly felt her lay her head down on my back. (I was so shocked!) She was shy about taking pictures with me, saying goodbye, and responding to many of my questions, but because of that moment, I knew our time together meant something to her.
Some of the other girls at my table were more closed off and rebellious.
The first day, they were literally rolling their eyes during our ice breaker––getting them to participate was like pulling teeth. And the second day, one of them even started bullying my girl! They were apparently from the same home and the other girl was older. I really wasn’t sure what to do. (I was just like, “What are you doing? Hey!”)
But that same girl who bullied my kid and constantly ran off the first two days (leaving her volunteer to finish all the crafts for her) gave me the warmest hug goodbye the last day! Between the second and third day, something shifted in her, and she became a totally different person. The last day, she was focused and diligent, and she was even enthusiastic about helping clean up!
The crazy thing is that I can actually pinpoint the moment of change. It happened when she received praise during compliment time at the end of the second day.
Her volunteer had a hard time coming up with a compliment for her, but being praised and recognized like that in front of everyone completely changed her attitude. It made her want to be good.
Never again will I underestimate the power of affirmation! You just want to yell, rebuke, and discipline when kids misbehave, but while those things have their place, there is often something going on under the surface, a feeling of hurt or rejection, that makes the child feel a need prove something by rebelling. Ultimately they are just craving acknowledgement and affection.