I wished I could be eight again so I could be a student in her class. That’s how I felt each time I visited Kim’s classroom. Kim respected me as her administrator and also treated me as if I was the most important person in her life. Whenever I popped into her room she’d stop everything. Her face would beam with a sincere smile.
“Well hello Mrs. Chandler,” she’d say as if seeing me for the first time in months. “Boys and girls, isn’t it wonderful Mrs. Chandler had time to stop by and say hello?”
Her heartfelt greeting made me feel as if she’d been waiting all day for me to arrive.
Kim had a passion for people and made everyone feel that way. Everybody who entered her classroom benefitted from the same loving affirmation. Her greeting wasn’t a fake formality but a genuine validation of the person’s value.
Can such a simple reception impact a person? It sure made me feel appreciated and special.
We all need to know we’re important to others. Especially our children who have mental illness (MI). But they may not receive a warm welcome from others. Facial expressions that appear lifeless, tense, or sad don’t invite happy responses.
When our son Chris passes me in our home he often doesn’t make eye contact or smile. Sometimes my happy greeting is met with silence or a grunt. Training me to keep my smiles to myself.
But just as smiles are contagious so are frowns. The typical reaction to a sad demeanor is to avoid the person. The typical emotion of a mother who sees her son downcast is to feel sadness. For a long time my face reflected the helpless condition of my heart. My mind provided the directive to my response: “Nothing can be done to spark his smile, disengage your smile.”
One day it dawned on me that my sad expression only contributed to Chris’s dreary emotions. It occurred to me I could at least give him a warm greeting. Instead of contaminating his mood, I could celebrate his life. Simply by offering a loving smile and this upbeat reception: “Hi Chris.”
Nowadays I seize every opportunity throughout the day to let him know he’s important to me. Each time we cross paths I have the chance to let him know he’s loved.
Can a warm welcome really have a positive impact on our loved ones who suffer with MI? Think about the power of a look. The glare from a bully, the frown from a teacher, and the scowl from a drill sergeant strike fear in the receiver. On the other hand, the loving glance of an admirer, the proud smile of a parent, and the approving nod of a coach all inflate one’s self-esteem.
I often imagine what kind of look Peter received from Christ when he denied Jesus three times. Luke 22:61 tells us, “The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter.”
Jesus had told Peter he would deny Him three times. So I’m thankful we don’t read, “Christ rolled his eyes and said, ‘I told you so.’”
We don’t have any details describing Christ’s look. But we have plenty of details about His love. It’s forgiving, unconditional, and long-suffering. We can extend that same kind of love to our kids who suffer with MI. We do love our children with unconditional love. But how can we offer a warm greeting in the face of depression? By relying on the One who gave Peter a loving response to His denials.