We have a little saying at our house. "If it's not fun for everyone, it's not fun for anyone". This has a broad application, from joking to playing hide and seek...
The scene: Playing after church with friends while parents visit. Kenna was about 3 years old. I noticed her sadly sitting on a chair by herself, and ignored it for a minute. When she was still sitting there a few minutes later, I went and asked her why she was not playing with her friends.
"They said I'm not allowed to play with them. It's a game for cousins only". She was holding back tears as she said it, and not being overly sympathetic by nature, I was surprised at how it made tears come to my eyes as well.
Her little best friend had a myriad of out of town cousins visiting, and was not trying to be cruel. They were only 3 years old after all. She just wanted time with her cousins. I understood on that level, but yet, even in such a small thing, rejection can be hard to take.
We wrapped it up and headed home and had conversation about it. How did that make you feel? The lesson to take away? We should hope to never be the one who makes others feel that way. When there are people wanting to play, they are allowed, regardless of their "usefulness" to the game or to you.
That is almost a 4 year old lesson for Kenna, as she's about to turn 7. But she still remembers it and will talk about it on occasion - how awful it feels when others don't include you. She's not permanently wounded or anything, it just made an impact on her little heart, and even at the tender toddler age of three, it seems she set out to be the nicest kid on the block.
She is so kind hearted and thoughtful of others, and it's very special. Although I do think she has a naturally "nice" personality, I have no doubts that her experience helped shape her life, even at that age (her maturity was beyond that typical of the age). There is something unique about life experience. People can tell you to be kind to others, but it really doesn't hit home until you've been on the negative receiving end. At that point you will truly place value on the action.
So while it would be wonderful to protect our children from every little thing that could hurt them - it would not be best for them. (Obviously parental wisdom here, do not allow your children to go into a situation where they are constantly being hurt or abused by an individual - a different lesson to learn there about loving the unlovely perhaps). They need to experience life and be guided appropriately on how to deal with it. You will be rejected time and time again, and even by your friends. And that is ok. But lets make it a personal habit to never be the ones causing the pain. Lets be the ones who pick the worst athlete first, just to let him know he's special to us, and we don't mind playing with him.
Lets be the ones who guide our children in the course of their everyday lives and teach them lessons they will never forget - with application. Lets not forsake important character training over something that seems insignificant. Lets teach our children to not let their emotions rule the day, but to act as they know the Lord would desire. To love the unlovely, to show kindness to those that don't benefit us, to be an example to others, and to let the hurts of life grow us - not hurt us and keep us down, but blossom and make us aware of a realm we had never before noticed.