Do you collect things that are meaningful to you? I do, including pine cones that I suppose others might think are a rather strange thing to collect. But, each one on my living room shelf is important to me. I wrote about them here.
When teaching at a youth camp in early June, I was surrounded by pine trees and lots of beauty in New Mexico. I thought about going exploring to find a pine cone to take home as a memory. Because my back was acting up and I was using a cane, I knew walking on uneven ground would not be wise.
One day with the almost 400 7th graders I taught every morning, I mentioned my collection when explaining that nature-smart people often collect and categorize by patterns. I explained that I was sorry I couldn’t go find a new pine cone to add to those I already owned to represent our fabulous times together.
Before I knew it, I heard myself encouraging any child who wanted to find and give me one to do so. I was stunned by how many did this, eagerly looking for me later that day to hand theirs to me. Some shared their stories of where they found it and why they chose the one they did.
Some found a pine cone for me because they’re nature smart and it was easy and natural for them to do so. What I found more interesting was how many did it to further establish their relationship with me. It was a belonging issue. It was clear to me in the way they approached and interacted with me. They wanted to participate. They wanted to be known.
It’s not hard to create opportunities to help children and teens establish themselves in a group. It’s not hard to deepen connections and belonging. It’s not hard to help them feel important, recognized, and known. We just need to do it.
Let’s think of some ways to do that today. Then let’s follow through and do it. Watch for smiles. Confidence. Conversations. Connections.
Don’t just do it once. Keep it up. Thanks.