Almost 70 years ago, a little blonde girl stood in the heart of the Congo and offered a friend a sweet fruit.

The little girl is a family friend whose parents were missionaries in the Congo and she just celebrated her 70th birthday this week.  Her picture illustrates a beautiful principle of unfolding belonging and friendship: we are all connected.  Right at the soul of learning is belonging.

Children and Attachments

Young children are masterful at cultivating attachments.

Possibly, because children are less aware and don’t see through our adult lenses, they find it easier to connect.  They are less concerned about the sameness of race, ethnicity, religion, or creed.  They don’t need to connect through the experience of sameness in language, socio-economics, interests, or even professions.

Without a doubt, little ones somehow easily find connection in the simplest ways, like sharing a sweet fruit.  The rest doesn’t matter.  All of the differences fall away.  Children create a connection in spite of all the differences we perceive.  So often, they are completely open-hearted.

Maybe this is what Jesus meant when he said,

“Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

Simply offer a sweet fruit and make a friend.

Seeing Differences feels Alarming

Parents, in adolescence, feeling a connection with those who are ‘different’ is more challenging.  Teenagers are filled with an explosion of awareness and they are ego-centric.  So, they only see ‘self’ as compared to ‘others’ and they become desperate to fit in and find sameness.  At every turn, they see ‘differences’ and it frightens them.  Being unique or distinctive creates an existential fear of separation of disconnection.  This fear is inside each of us and is normal.

During this tender season of awakening, you must trust your wisdom and lean into your values. Remember, the most important connection your teenager needs is with you.

Lean into Connection

Pictures from missionaries like the one above spattered my own childhood.  As I listened to the stories a deep-seated sense of connection grew in my heart, knowing we are all truly the same.  From there, it was easy to build connections across the globe for the sake of children in East Africa and beyond.  Thus, my work with Niteo Africa was born and while the mission is different, the heart is the same, care for friends.

The unfolding of human potential happens within relationships; it’s what I know for sure.  Connection and belonging are deep in the soul of learning, growing, and developing.

How can we connect with others in authentic ways this week?  How can we see others with the eyes of a young child who doesn’t see the differences?  Most importantly, how can we cultivate schools, classrooms, and homes with a value of diversity and learn to bridge differences with simple gestures of kindness?

Join me in looking for ways to hold out our hands and offer a sweet fruit.

For the sake of the children,