My husband is the PTA President at our kids’ school, so we’re now more deeply connected to all the elementary “happenings.”  Our friend, Shane, a fellow 2nd grade dad, is the Vice President.  I don’t think I’ve ever heard of two men leading a PTA, but it sure is fun to watch.  And these aren’t just any men – they are men who love God with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength.  These are men who bring to the table their expertise in the business world and in managing volunteers and a huge heart for the kids and teachers.

Last Thursday the PTA sponsored a Fun Run, which was the culmination of a ten day fundraiser.  Kids acquired pledges for each lap they ran.  Even Hurricane Michael couldn’t flood out the fun that was had by all as the Boosterthon crew transformed the Fun Run into a Glow Run inside the gym.

Alongside a few others from our church, I volunteered to be there for a couple hours.  I watched my own kids run, chatted with lots of parents, observed the amazing super powers of elementary teachers, and awarded red-faced finishers with fruit snacks after they’d lapped up a few sips of refreshment from the water fountain.

Though I’d intended on going home to work midday, I ended up going back to the school after grabbing a bite to eat.  I had total FOMO (Mom – if you’re reading this – that means “fear of missing out”) at the thought of not being there to cheer on those sweet kids and high five their sweaty little hands.

I know I just wrote about the power of being celebrated last month, but I can’t stop thinking about it.  The reality is that so, so many people are under celebrated.  Our society too often reserves celebration for huge accomplishments, which come VERY seldom for most of us.

As I watched 700 some odd kids take laps around the gym throughout the day, I couldn’t help but reminisce about my own elementary school experience.  This type of thing would have terrified me.  I was an overweight and completely unathletic little girl whose memory was forever scarred by the Presidential Fitness Test in 3rd grade.

My heart ached for the ones who had to walk more than they could run and struggled to finish.  …but finish they did.  And I wanted to hug each one of them!  Lest I get a sea of “who is this peppy stranger squeezing me” looks, I reasoned it better to give them high fives, look as many of them in the eye as I could and say things like, “You did it!  You finished!”  I wish I could have taken hold of their little faces and said, “I hope you remember this day.  I hope you remember that you can do hard things.”  …and other much less important things like, “I promise this baby fat is going to melt away … and you might even run real races someday… and all of this will be a faint memory.”

And for all the kids, I found my thoughts wondering to what their home lives are like.  Do they know that they’re loved?  Have their gifts been affirmed?  Do they understand that they’ve been made in the image of God?  Has anyone looked them in the eyes this week, told them how proud they are, and smiled?  There were so many unknowns, but one thing was clear – my husband and I (and the other wonderful volunteers) had an opportunity to speak life into them that day.

If I’m totally honest, on one hand I have a hard time pinpointing why celebrating and affirming these kids felt so significant to me.  Why was it that I just had to go back after lunch?  I wasn’t having deep heart-to-heart conversations.  I didn’t share the gospel with anyone.  I had no significant leadership role in the event.  But I sure gave out enough high fives to merit bathing in hand sanitizer.

There are many facets to the Christian gospel, but it begins with this – God is holy and made you in his image.  Before we even get to sin marring the image of God in us and shattering our relationship with Him or his plan for our rescue and redemption, we start with a holy God making people who mattered very much to him.  Therefore, the opportunity to speak life and blessing and value into little minds is an absolute privilege.

My hope and prayer is that someday these kids would say as Hagar did in Genesis 16, “I have seen the God who sees me.”

Ashlee Johnson

Author Ashlee Johnson

Ashlee is the wife of a pastor, mom of two busy little ones, and a graduate of Gordon-Conwell Seminary. She is passionate about communicating the truths of Scripture to women and magnifying Jesus as the All-Satisfying Treasure and Almighty Redeemer. She has lived in North Carolina for most of her life and loves making the most of the sidewalks and parks in her 1940s neighborhood. Ashlee enjoys healthy eating and exercising, but finds it nearly impossible to resist homemade cookies!

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