Today I asked the boys to write about what they have learned thus far on the trip. We have done a lot of the three R’s while here, but there has been so much else going on the past 3 weeks that I personally feel is far more important than academics (sorry Amanda and Sarah!) that I wondered how they have processed all of this. I gave them no words to put on paper…no hints…just asked them to speak from their hearts about what important lessons they have picked up.
Those of you who know our sons in “real life” may or may not be surprised at their responses. As I typed each one as they came to me and read it to me so I could post it for them, I had a very difficult time not crying right there in front of each of them. One by one they came, these innocent and kindhearted sons of ours…and shared their acquired wisdom for all the world to hear. As you read their posts, you may say “That’s not them, they wouldn’t use those words.”. Yes, they would…
To see their faith put into practice this past couple of weeks has been a deeply humbling experience. They were hurt to the core, they were filled with grief and a dream of theirs died right before their eyes while they felt powerless to change it. I am convinced they were not as powerless as they may have felt, for the strength of their love and compassion gently tugged at hearts, it dissolved misplaced anger and fear.
I sit filled with admiration for the qualities they exhibit…that they at their own tender young ages, not even teens …were so eager to offer second chances, to reach out with love even if it meant their own hearts might be pummeled again. They never reacted out of anger, never once treated Angela or Olesya rudely or unkindly as they suffered at the treatment they themselves received. They were confused, but never anything but hospitable and warm. I realized tonight that it is no wonder I have always said that my children are some of my most favorite people in the whole world.
But this is not a “brag fest”, despite how it might sound. It is about what we all have learned, which is SO much, and about recognizing that “real” learning often doesn’t come shaped in the form of a textbook or a school desk. What all of our children (and we, ourselves) learn from immersing ourselves in life’s wondrous events is more valuable than the best university education.
I admit, there were moments as we were going through the past couple of weeks when I second guessed myself. Reading of their pain put into simple yet powerful words, consoling them after copious tears shed, how could I not ask if this was too much to put them through? These treasures of ours are beyond precious and here we were, exposing them to incredible emotional turmoil, we “allowed” their hearts to be ripped apart as ours had. And, as some might say, we publicly exposed them as well through our and their own blogs.
But, what did we REALLY expose them to? The love and comfort that can be received when part of a community…when one sees others as an important part of their lives rather than as “bit players”. I reminded myself that our job, as parents, is not to hide our children from life’s challenges and pain, but to walk beside them, explaining, nurturing and guiding as they go. A child’s life was never ruined by going through some tough stuff, it is ruined when they feel alone. Boy, that fact was never better illustrated than the circumstance we faced this past week.
We love our sons so much, that even typing that seems like the world’s biggest understatement, and yet we realize that love is born of trial and error, and it was deepened by experiencing grief, joy, loss, anger, and so much more. We know others don’t view them as we do, for it is our JOB to be their biggest Fan Club, it is our JOB to think they are the most special, precious little people walking the globe. For if we don’t think so, who will?
We have seen evidence this past couple of weeks of what it means to feel special to someone, and what can happen when you don’t. Angela has kept every letter and card, every single photo we ever sent because for the first time in her life, she felt precious and cherished by someone. And yet even that, even 5 years of commitment and love sent long distance almost wasn’t enough…a soul was almost lost. Olesya always felt special to Angela, she always had her Guardian Angel caring about her, and she also had us for the past 5 years. Her wounds still exist though, and to ignore that because they are not as obvious would be insensitive and ignorant.
Yes, the lessons learned by all of us this week have been profound ones, life altering ones. I myself have learned that we, as a family…as Team LaJoy…have a capacity far greater than I ever would have imagined to weather some tough storms and come out of it intact. I have seen inside myself and learned a lot about who I really am. I have learned about quiet courage. I have seen how being part of our faith community lead me personally to this place where I could face this experience and not be shattered by it, not feel forced to build my own walls. Somehow, I managed to remain open and not move to self-protective mode. I have learned that my beloved husband has matured too, acting in ways I never would have expected out of him 5 years ago or so.
As I reread what my children wrote about this special time in our lives, I know that someday I will shake my head in disbelief that they have come so far, so fast. They are well on their way to becoming the men I would hope for them to be…strong, loving, compassionate, understanding men.
I am so grateful that we all have been put together. They have taught me a lot.