Worth Every Effort
Selena Barnes parked at Starbucks wondering why Janet Randolph wanted to see her. It had been three years since they worked together in the hospital business office. They had never socialized.
While waiting, Selena searched her memory for tidbits about Janet's personal life. She had two kids…a son and a daughter. Her husband owned an auto body shop. That was about all she could recollect. A car pulled into the parking space next to hers. She glanced at the brunette behind the wheel and waved.
Janet emerged from a silver Lexus, approaching Selena with a smile. "How have you been?" she asked. "Wow, I really like your hair short."
"Fine, thanks," Selena said, combing her fingers through her blond hair. "It's wonderful to see you." Despite the smile, Janet appeared nervous.
They ordered drinks and made casual chit-chat while waiting in the pick-up line. Selena talked about nurturing her garden. The harvest had been worth every effort. Janet complained that the body shop kept her from doing anything like gardening.
Coffee in hand, the two women migrated to the patio away from the noise of the order counter.
Smiling, Selena said, "Well, it was a surprise to get your call." She sipped the creamy foam from her latte.
Janet glanced off to the side. "I know, it's been awhile since we worked together," she said. "I'm hoping for advice."
Selena nodded. "I'll try," she said. "What's going on?" While waiting for the other woman to explain, she silently prayed for God to give her wisdom about whatever was bothering Janet.
"It's my son, Joe," Janet said. "He's in the fifth grade now and we're having issues. I know you teach Children's Church, so I thought you might know what to do."
"Okay," Selena said. "what kind of problems is Joe having?"
"He bullies other children," Janet said, looking at the table. "He's in constant trouble."
"Have you asked him why he bullies his classmates?"
Janet squinted. "No not really," she said. "His dad lectures him about his behavior after the fact."
"You might gain insight from his answer," Selena said. "There may be emotions Joe is having trouble processing. Some children also emulate video games, movies, or others. Does any of that relate to Joe?"
Janet sipped from her cup before answering. Selena wondered if the discussion was over.
Finally, she replied, "Joe's father is kind of tough on him, but I wouldn't call it bullying. We spend a lot of time working, though, and Joe plays video games in the back room."
Selena had heard similar stories from her kids in Children's Church. Busy working parents sometimes overlook a child's emotional need for attention. "Running a business is a tough job," she said. "How do you feel when there's no time to spend with Joe and his sister?"
She furrowed her brows. "Like a lousy mother. Often a whole week consists of nothing but work, fast food, and getting the kids where they need to go."
Selena folded her hands. "If that's how you feel, what do you think Joe might be feeling about his life?"
Janet pulled her head back, her brown eyes widening. "He probably feels like we don't care about what's happening with him." She dabbed at her eyes with a napkin. "After he's asleep at night, I always wish I had asked him about his day."
Selena said, "It's just that kids encounter all sorts of situations that require constructive direction. In the absence of parental guidance, they seek solutions from other sources."
"Did you learn that from the Bible?" Janet asked.
Selena nodded. "God tells us in Proverbs 22:6 to 'Train up a child the way he should go: and when he is old he will not depart from it.' Do you want Joe's primary influence in how he views the world to come from you and his father or some other source?"
Sighing, she said, "Lately, I can hardly deal with my life. What if I bring Joe to your class on Sunday?"
"That's a lovely idea," Selena said, "but dropping him into a class is no magic fix. How do you think he would feel about being there without his family?"
Janet nodded. "Probably like he does in grade school...alone to figure it all out." She stood. "Thanks for helping me work through this, Selena. I know what to do now. I will discuss it with my husband immediately."
Selena praised God all the way home.
Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. Colossians 4:6 (NIV)
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