Second grade presented some defining challenges for me. Dad’s Air Force career moved us from England, where I attended first grade, to Georgia the next year. Reflecting back, loneliness was a prevailing emotion through most of that year. Because the other students were all together in first grade the previous year, friendships were already established. I entered second grade with a notable disadvantage…no special friend to link up with. How I reacted to this made it more difficult for me to readily adjust. My personality has this mix of being withdrawn at times, and at other times, outgoing. As a child, when I felt insecure, or overwhelmed by crowds and noise, I retreated into my quiet self. Actually, I still have, even in my 60’s, times when I feel the need for solitude, while also enjoying fellowship regularly. Early on in second grade, I decided that recess time on the playground, with children frolicking everywhere, screaming with their loud, gleeful voices, was my least favorite part of the day. Without a consistent friend, a crowded playground is a very lonely place. It was in those quiet, lonely places of my heart that I began to realize God existed and was watching over me. I held His hand, silently waiting for His help.
As the school year progressed, I joined in the games, if someone invited me to take part. I gradually became more engaged with other children, but still didn’t feel like I really fit in. Seasons changed. Winter gave me an occasional break from playground recess. Rainy, cold days kept us indoors with quieter activities for recess. Then with an early Georgia spring, and winter weather behind us, the teachers again allowed more outdoor recesses.
One spring day, I noticed a boy, sitting all alone in the clover covered grass around the outskirts of the playground. I was drawn by the quiet solitude of this scene, and began walking toward him. As I got closer, I noticed that he was making clover necklaces and bracelets. This art of making clover jewelry was new to me, and curiosity propelled me to sit down beside him. When I did, he did not acknowledge me, and I, in turn, did not speak with him. As I watched him, I picked clover flowers and tried to copy what he was doing. Because I picked the wrong length of stem, I struggled to connect the flowers together. He saw my fruitless efforts and gave me tips about using longer stems and how to gently tie the flowers together.
We worked side by side during the recess, using few words. When the bell sounded to end recess, we went to our different classrooms. For several days we met in the clover patch, without arranging it. We quietly enjoyed each other’s company, the warmth of spring sunshine, green grass and lovely chains of clover flowers. This is a significant memory for me, because now, as I look back, I understand we were experiencing God’s grace in a tangible way.
I’m not able to recall this boy’s name, so I’ll call him “William”. One day, out of the blue, William calmly told me his mother had found his baby brother dead in the crib. I imagine it was from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, or SIDS. I think my young heart was very stunned to realize a baby could die. I can’t remember saying anything in response to this news. I do remember looking into his eyes, expecting to see tears. There were none. The death of this baby was unsettling for me because I had a 2 month old sister and a 4-year-old brother at home. Suddenly, there arose a possible threat to my family, something I had never imagined. While I was trying to process a hard fact of life, this gentle boy, without crying or using words to express his sorrow, just sat there in the clover and continued to make necklaces. Even as a 7-year-old, I began to understand why William sat in the clover. He didn’t want to risk revealing his vulnerable heart to others who might be too playful to respond in a way that he would feel safe. My heart hurt for him. I figured he had retreated from the other children about the time of his brother’s death. He had come to the solitude of the clover, looking for comfort and peace. We bonded easily because of our needs. I also looked for peace in that patch of soft, soothing clover. My hurt was merely trying to find my place among my peers. After several days, we quit meeting in the clover. It just happened, without planning it. I saw William’s playfulness return and he went off to join the boys on the playground. I know there was more to come for his healing and comfort, but it had begun in that patch of clover. I also discovered the joy of friendship that year. Susan and I began to meet on the playground, sitting and talking on a bench made of an old log. We climbed on monkey bars, played on the swings, and coasted down the slides. She saw the outgoing side of me. We would go on to enjoy birthday parties, and other childhood delights and I still treasure this friend today. I will always appreciate her tender heart including me in her life and circle of friends. Other than seeing William on the playground, enjoying the adventures that boys enjoy, I never interacted with him again. Summer break began and second grade ended.
Something happened inside me that year. It was the first time I actually heard, and felt, the pain of another’s heart. Letting those memories rewind and play in my mind today, I understand better some of the lessons I learned. Pain begins to heal when there is release, through sharing with someone who understands pain, or has also experienced hurt, even if it isn’t the same level of pain. I watched the sadness and heaviness leave William after he shared his bottled up pain with me. I never said anything to comfort him. Releasing the painful words from his heart, to someone who listened, opened a door for healing to begin.
I also experienced healing, by feeling connected to another person. I believe loneliness is cyclic, feeding on itself and stimulating its own growth. The more there is focus on loneliness, the more one feels lonely. Making the effort to connect with someone else helps dispel loneliness. This experience formed a strong yearning within me to connect, making sure others are not left out of the loop. I also discovered that being still, even, and especially, when hurting, gives me a greater awareness of God’s love and compassion. It was by God, His love, and His grace that William and I walked through those struggles.
I am thankful I have a Forever Friend, available at all times, to hear my hurts, Someone I can connect with daily. To be still before Jesus, is to know His peace, His love and His comfort.
Continuing to connect, with love