Self-esteem sometimes seems like an unattainable buzzword in our society today—and an inward-facing one at that. Yet inside each of us is a kernel of grace and individuality which makes us God’s child, a Christ Child–and that kernel needs nurturing, by ourselves and others. That’s why we’re here.
Recently I sang at the funeral of a dear friend’s sister who died of alcoholism, a woman who in her last days kept asking how the Hail Mary started even though she refused medical attention and was ashamed to let her family see her. On the rainy afternoon of her memorial, the beautiful service said it all: How Lorrie was born a treasure and remained of value, while not sugar-coating her separateness, pain and illness during much of her life. Singing the psalm at the lectern, I could see Lorrie’s children fighting with their emotions but being nurtured by the congregation honoring the holy kernel in their mother, even as they embraced their own children.At Convention, the Christ Child Society of Pasadena was awarded the Red Wagon Award for its “Christ Child Treasures” program. This new program is focused on building self-esteem and social skills in 6th grade boys and girls in 7 two-hour sessions taught by Christ Child volunteers. Being the intrepid photographer I am becoming in service of this blog, I asked if I could photograph the first session this fall. Granted the opportunity by Pasadena chapter president Carol Pickle (who in additional to being President volunteers in the St. Andrews Library) and program directors Terry Clougherty and Lorraine Reaume, I showed up at St. Andrew’s School On October 8 with an open heart and ready cell phone.
The kids trickled out of recess to the two-hour session, full of questions about what this “Treasures” program was going to be all about. Table captains were assigned from each of the 5 tables to serve a Christ Child-prepared and much-appreciated snack to their peers; little did those table captains know they would be asked to do even more in just a few minutes!
Fittingly, the first session’s module was about meetings and introductions. We Christ Child ladies started things off by introducing ourselves, saying three things about ourselves to help the kids know who we were. Then Lorraine asked the table captains to introduce themselves, using our example. I’ll never forget this boy standing up and saying how he didn’t know until the night before school in September that he’d be going to St. Andrews, that the first few weeks had been hard going, but that he was enjoying himself very much now. Talk about taking your moment and communicating to your audience! And the class’ spontaneous and generous response was to clap for him, to a one.
Then the students were given their binders, including a journal to be used throughout the course. Lorraine invited all the kids to write something about themselves that they would like to tell someone they were meeting for the first time. Two of the 26 children asked if they could depict their qualities in drawings; others scribbled their lists of attributes. One kid was stuck, and the girl sitting across from him suggested, “Why don’t you write down that you’re funny, ‘cause you’re really funny!”.
Journals completed, we moved into “Meetings and Introductions”. We spent some time talking about why and how we shake hands and look each other in the eyes in this society—and why it’s important. The goal was to get every child comfortable bringing forward the best treasure in themselves and to be open to the treasure in whomever they would meet, including figures of authority and people who seemed different from them. Then we literally shook things up, shaking hands adults to kids and kids to kids and providing feedback about how they could better be “in the moment” when meeting someone new. The kids will sure have reinforcement on this; all other sessions begin with a receiving line of teachers and Christ Child ladies!
Other modules of the Treasures program include respect for others (including anti-bullying), table manners, grooming, and saying thanks. This last is where former NCCS board member and “Christ Child Treasures” program director Terry Clougherty surprised the national board and the office. After showing the Mary Virginia Merrick Canonization DVD to the class she taught them how to address and write thank you notes. Then she asked them to write thank you notes to the National Board for the Treasures program and the Red Wagon Award (let’s be clear–all thanks properly go to Pasadena!)—and for Society’s work for children over its history. Here are just a few examples:
- “I am enjoying this Treasures class. Thank you for everything you do. You guys are so thoughtful for everything you give kids.” Aryan
- “Thank you so much for what you are doing helping all these children. I think that is amazing and I want to do that when I get older.” Nicolette
- “I am learning all kinds of new things. Some of these are manners, introductions and how to write notes. I am very impressed that you help all these children get education, food, and happiness. I wish good luck to you and the children.” Jack
- “Thank you for being an inspiration to all people. You are lovely and kind women. Just remember you are a true inspiration/role model to me.” Kristine
- “Thank you for helping poor children. Thank you for knitting blankets for babies. I have learned so much from the video we watched on Miss Mary. I have also learned so much from our etiquette class.” Jordan
“Christ Child Treasures” is not the only self-esteem program among our Christ Child chapters. For example, the Washington, D.C. chapter operates an impactful program for girls that includes similar elements—and incorporates others. Seeing the Pasadena program first-hand impressed me with its impact on children at a transitional age—so much so that I’ll be visiting the D.C. program in December. But the notes also touched me in a different way—they made me so proud to be a Christ Child member and to serve with women all around the country who “treasure” children in so many different ways. As Kristine said, you are lovely and kind people and a daily inspiration.
Till next time, when the topic is about chapter challenges I’m hearing from the road. . . .