|Beginning of the Year Tips from Little Flower Girls' Club Creator|
Would it surprise you and would I cause scandal if I admit that I truly and absolutely love Taylor Swift's song, "Mean"?
I hope not, as that song is wonderful at putting to music and image (if you have seen the video) what many of us have felt at one time or another -
"Someday I'll be living in a big ol' city
And all you're ever going to be is mean
Someday I'll be big enough so you can't hit me
And all you're ever going to be is mean
Why you gotta be so mean?"
I am writing this at the beginning of the school year, and the beginning of most Little Flowers, Blue Knights or other programs. The beginning of each school year invariably brings new families, new members and therefore, struggles.
Accepting and welcoming new members into a well-formed group is not always easy. There are the first few meetings when the rules that were once well-known and accepted by all need to be repeated and explained to the newest families. The schedule that worked last year does not work with these same new families, and you must chose to either change or ask them to leave. And, as hard as it to admit, new members may not feel welcomed if old members feel threatened.
The inclusion of new members often means well-established friendships are tested. A few girls who were once just seen as close friends can quickly become a clique as they refuse to welcome a new member or help them acclimate to the group. And this same situation can occur with the parents as well.
Taking a moment to go down a painful memory lane; if you were ever a part of club, team or attended any school you are familiar with the world of both the bullies and those being bullied. It is especially hard to face the reality that, perhaps, you were once the queen bee or the one who was daily stung by attacks.
It should cause no surprise and no scandal if I were to tell you that queen bees or kings are never to be tolerated in any of our programs. As Catholic clubs we must first and foremost exhibit those virtues we are teaching including love, charity and friendship. We must take chapter 16 of the Book of Sirach to heart as this year begins and strive to help our children (and ourselves) to be true friends.
"A faithful friend is a sturdy shelter; he who finds one finds a treasure.
A faithful friend is beyond price, no sum can balance his worth.
A faithful friend is a life-saving remedy, such as he who fears God finds;
For he who fears God behaves accordingly, and his friend will be like himself."
A few suggestions to help this happen:
-Pray. It can be hard for some of us to make new friends. There is a sense of a loss of privacy or a worry that you will over extend yourself. Ask the Blessed Mother to help you become as welcoming as she must have been. In that she was sinless in everything, I am sure she was perfectly welcoming to everyone that Christ brought to their home but it gives me courage and grace when I picture her wry smile as Jesus brought a new group of believers around for dinner.
-Keep a few Scriptures close to your heart. In addition to Sirach 16, give Matthew 7:9 consideration: "For which of you if your son would ask for bread, will give him a stone?"
I offer this verse because everyone attending a meeting is seeking friendship and to offer them anything less than is hurtful (and risks becoming sinful). We must remember our groups are often the first step many families take on their return to a more faithful life in the Church. Our groups are fun, easy and fun. For many families our groups are not intimidating as they strive to learn more about the Catholic faith. And, for others, our groups may provide a place of learning their parishes do not. We must lose judgement about others and ask our children to do the same.
Not every family that belongs to your group will become your best friend. The children will not all become close confidantes but all of us can be kind and charitable during meetings.
-Be aware of the cliques between the children. As I said before, some of our children will have close friends in the group. There is nothing wrong with these faithful friends but if these cliques refuse to do anything without the other, argue about being divided for an activity or display true defiance towards adults or even other children then something must be said privately (preferably with their parent present) about their attitudes.
-Strive for honesty, openness and an attitude of both listening and sharing during meetings. It is natural to have one or more members be more outgoing and willing to share. However, it is also just as easy for this to be an aspect of pride or vanity as they seek to make sure all eyes are on them. It is up to the leaders to make sure everyone has a chance to talk and share. There is nothing wrong with a bit of quiet as you let the quieter members compose their thoughts and their courage before offering their thoughts.
-No 'mean girls or guys'. Never accept unkindness or criticism masked as laughter or bushed off with 'just kidding'. We all know there is nothing kind about being laughed at or made fun of. Do not let an air of superiority based on clothing, resources, or anything else rein in your groups. We are all equal in the sight of God and must ensure that is true in our groups as well. (You may just want to share Taylor Swift's video as a jump off for discussion if you are concerned about this in your group.)
-Pray. See how important this is? Pray not only yourself as a parent but pray for the children that they see the importance of stretching themselves to become better friends. You may decide to begin each meeting with an encouragement to ask for the intercession of any of the friends we know from Scripture - David and Jonathan, Ruth and Naomi and Mary, Martha and Lazarus and Jesus.
There is a commonly held adage that we will all be surprised by who is standing next to us in heaven. This little quip highlights that Christ welcomes everyone (remember the Dismas, the good thief?) and if we start getting snobby here on earth, we just might find ourselves in trouble when we face Christ. Let us all strive become a sturdy shelter where others might find rest from the world and a treasure pleasing to God.
God bless, Rachel Watkins