Invisible Kids: The Swan Story

The Swan Story

Say, “CHEESE!”   Click and the picture is taken.

This photo was taken in 1966 and I saw it for the first time a short while ago. A friend of our family mailed it to my father. Evidently, this friend was camping with us to have taken this picture, but my memory doesn’t go back that far. In the background is my mom and dad putting up our camper. Our family went camping all of the time. I have wonderful memories of sitting around the campfire, listening to my parents tell adventure stories until late in the evening. Daytime fun included swimming or hiking trails.

That’s me… pictured on the left with my best friend, Janet. I always said Janet was the prettiest of us two.  I laughed when I saw this photo of myself and also recalled fabulous memories of my good friend. When my  husband looked at the photo, he laughed too at the sight of my long skinny legs and goofy grin.

This photo also brings back a lot of memories of a quiet, painfully shy, and awkward young girl about to enter middle school. She lacked self-confidence, was always the last person chosen to play on a volley ball team during PE class, and rarely did anyone invite her to sit with them during lunch.

She was living “The Ugly Duckling” story.

She was bullied, not physically, but by words … simply because she was different. She often felt unnoticed.  She was invisible.

As a leader in children’s ministry, I often visit other churches to observe their children’s ministries or youth group programs. I particularly enjoy watching ministry in action. The first thing I quietly look for is how adults interact with the kids. I also observe how the youth relate to each other. I look for the invisible kids. I often remember and see myself in those children and youth that seem invisible to their peers and the adults around them.

I want to encourage the adult leaders to find the quite ones, the awkward ones, the kids that are different or don’t fit in the cliques formed around them. I want to encourage the youth…those students that are popular, to be a friend to someone who is different from them. To set the example. To be a real leader. To show them Jesus.

We need to work at developing relationships and create a welcoming environment in our churches for all kids and students. This will require a change of  heart. I really believe when our church is focused on being Jesus-centered…a gospel-centered church, the invisible kids will be seen.

They will be seen as a valuable person and needed.  They will feel appreciated. They will be in community, encouraged and mentored by Godly leaders.  And their voice will be heard and their unique gifts and talents will be applauded. Their self-confidence will become anchored in God’s love and acceptance of them, rather than placing too high a value on their perception of what other people think.

They are not ugly ducklings. They are swans.

I asked my husband what he really thought of the photo of me and he said, “You are proof of the swan story–when the ugly duckling grows up to be a swan.”

“Are you saying I was an ugly duckling?”

“No, I’m saying you are a swan.”

It’s nice to be a swan. I’ll take that.