My son could not wait until the first day of school. He didn't care what clothes he wore or how he would get there. For him, the first day of this school year was just like the last day of last year--another day to hang out with his friends.
I never had that kind of enthusiasm for first days. The transition from elementary to high school was painful. I arrived at a new school with no old friends. For an extremely shy and anxious kid, that school year loomed long and lonely.
Starting college six years later, I went through the dreaded first days again. Most freshman gain weight when they get to college. I, on the other hand, lost 15 pounds because not even McDonald's finest fries could slip through the lump in my throat that first semester.
Even now, I can't think of those days without deep, deep sadness.
So when my sweet girl burst into tears as soon as the car door closed yesterday, lots of emotions starting churning inside this momma who knows all too well how hard it can be to begin again alone.
The timing of the summer movie "Inside Out" couldn't have been better for the two of us. While we didn't move, my daughter's best friend did. So yesterday, as teacher after teacher called out her friend's name, my girl was reminded over and over that someone special was missing whose very presence could have made this day just a little brighter.
Sadness certainly sat at the controls yesterday.
I'm glad to see all the reports of great first days yesterday--really, I am. I don't wish any child the pain of spending a day on the verge of tears because they feel so alone they want to disappear for real (you know, because they're already invisible).
But her day was anything but great, and today may not be any better.
It's not all bad news though. She is strong and courageous, and she headed out the door today with an attitude that quietly insisted "let's get this done." Will be it be a "great" day? Probably not. Will she get through it? Absolutely.
Today. Next week. First semester. The whole year. She will survive and thrive because she knows who she is and Whose she is, regardless of the circumstances.
Change is inevitable. Transitions are part of life. They stretch us. They show us what we're made of. We feel their pain, and ultimately, we realize their gain.
This morning, as I always do, I encouraged both my kids to notice those around them. Though my daughter didn't really believe it, someone in her class is probably hurting more than she is. In the hall, in band, in the lunchroom, or on the bus, there is someone who needs a smile and a kind word.
I regularly tell my kids that I would much rather they be remembered for their kindness to others than for any academic or extracurricular accolades. Coming from someone who long thought her only value was in what she could achieve, I hope that message sticks with them.
If you're reading this and have influence over a child, I hope you will share that message with them as well. When Joy is at the wheel, share that with someone who is overwhelmed with Sadness. They may not be able to tell you thanks, but it will make all the difference.
-- Carrie McWhorter is a regular correspondent for The Alabama Baptist Newspaper and the editor of Allee Magazine. Her column is At the Corner of Faith and Family.