Some children speak with words. Some speak even louder with actions. M was so very shy. Words were not her friends. She wasn’t comfortable with them. But when her Care For Kids mentor would visit during lunch, things were different. Words came easily. Conversation flowed. M would tell stories about make believe friends and fantasy creatures that came to play in the woods behind her house. She shared elaborate tales of fiction and adventure.
L was an awesome mentor who understood that listening with the heart is the true key to getting a child to talk. And when the child did talk, no judgment was passed…just love.
“Everything that comes out of a child’s mouth is rooted in some sort of truth and reality. We just have to be great listeners to find it.”
So one day when L showed up for lunch and M appeared nervous and shy she knew something was up. No words came out. But when they passed through the lunch line, the only food that M put on her plate was a very large dish of Jell-O.
“Just Jell-O today?” L asked with the tone of inquisition.
All she got in response was a head nod. This was the student that all the teachers knew. This was the child that was labeled as “sad.” But this was not the girl L knew.
Being the seasoned professional she was L knew what to do. She, too, filled her plate with Jell-O and headed to the table. She watched as M slurped up the jelly liquid. She did the same.
After about three loud slurps, a smile came. L spoke.
“Okay pumpkin… what’s the deal. You are my hamburger munching, pizza loving ferocious eater… what’s up?”
Again – no words. M simply opened her mouth. All her silver caps were gone. Her teeth hurt.
She had eaten a box of Milk Duds. She had filled her good behavior punch card and was rewarded a trip to the candy jar. The Milk Duds had pulled every cap off of her little teeth. She knew her mom would be furious and there was no money to fix the problem. So Jell-O was on the menu indefinitely.
The saddest part of the story is that Jell-O had been the staple for the past two weeks.
L rose to the occasion as did Care For Kids and an awesome dentist.
Stories flow again – through bites of hamburger and pizza. But the smile speaks loudest of all.