I met Tessa, 21, in a class I taught as part of her drug rehab. What she taught me confirms the benefit of spiritual roots beginning in childhood.
Tessa (not her real name) gave me permission to use this letter she wrote as part of her recovery. Notice how she writes about her drug use as a relationship that she could turn to for support, eventually replacing it with her relationship to her higher power.
My dearest friend,
I am writing you to inform you that we can no longer be in each other’s lives. I no longer need you.
With two nieces on top-ranked college volleyball teams (Hawaii and UCLA) I sat in a lot of gyms watching serves and returns.
Psychologists sometimes use the term “serve and return parenting” to refer to face-to-face, back-and-forth interactions between caregivers and their babies. Science Journalist Paul Tough observes that these interactions create secure attachments and they motivate a child’s enthusiasm in practicing social interaction, speech and language.
But I also observe the same serve and return dynamics in the development of human spirituality, sparking growth in conscience and character.
Children experience the calm in the inner space of their human spirit that they need to incubate perseverance, tenacity, and the other significant character qualities. These character qualities then carry over into their everyday life.
It’s hard to find child-sized words kids can use to express spiritual or transcendent experiences. “Kids need to know the words,” says middle school teacher Sheila Edwards. “When you’re giving to others, that’s sacrifice. Labeling it makes it powerful. Kids can say, ‘I did this—it shows I’m committed,’ or ‘This shows I have integrity.’”
A teacher told one student: “Jake’s mother told me that every kid in the class made fun of him when his nose was runny—everyone but you. Your compassion made a difference to Jake. He came home and told his mom about it.”