While I was being interviewed on a radio program recently, the host excitedly said, “Paula, you need to write a “Paula’s Tips” column! He was energized by our “Right Road” conversation and offered that such a from-the-heart piece would be a great help for parents and teachers. I have often thought of doing something like that, so thank you Jim B., for providing the impetus for my sitting down to jot this monthly message to all those who will lend a set of eyes to read it! I truly hope each month’s tip will provide a spark that will help you brighten children’s lives in some special and meaningful ways.

TIP #1:

I must say, that for this incredibly meaningful “Tip #1,” while it is an ingrained part of my being, I cannot take credit for coming up with it! Many, many years ago (just about the time I started working with kids), I remember seeing someone on Oprah share the importance of “lighting up” from your heart and soul whenever your child comes into the room. It was one of those moments that from the second I heard the words, they stuck with me like glue. I realized right away it was something that I tended to do with kids, and when my son was born (he is 7 now), I remember it taking on an even stronger meaning in my heart. I have made it a life-goal to make sure that every time my son comes into the room – even if we are upset with each other, if he has just been disciplined, or if he just knocked over a project by accident (that took four hours to prepare!) – to always shine… make sure my eyes, heart, and soul somehow “light up” just for him.

When I met my husband’s parents, the first thing I noticed when we were all together was that they lit up for him – every time he walked into a room. Every time. Their love for and pride in him was palpable in the room – and I remember thinking from early on in our relationship, that my husband has always had a quiet confidence about him that I believe has come in big part, from that “light” that his parents always had (and still have) at the ready to shine for him every time he walks into a room. I pray that MY son feels that light and unconditional love from me every day of his life.
In thinking about the 20 years now that I’ve worked with kids, I realize that the “light” truly is a huge part of my presence with them. (And I absolutely know that for any of us, it is a central part of really being able to connect with kids.) Every time I work with a classroom or share an assembly, I try to look each and every child in the eye and shine at least a moment “just for them”. Even when there are 500 kids in the room for an assembly, when I’m sharing a reflective song for example, I don’t just look off into space while singing; my eyes move to connect with each child. When a group of kids excitedly gather around asking questions or sharing nuggets of information from their hearts, same goes – I try to at least catch every one of their eyes for a moment to let them know that they are special, loved, and worth listening to.

So, just as Oprah’s show shared all those years ago, make sure that every single day you interact with a child or children – whether as a parent, teacher, pastor, principal, nurse, youth director – that you SHINE for each child as often as you can. They will absolutely feel the love and care deep in their souls and it will make an indelible difference in their lives. They may not realize it right at that moment (especially when the moment centers around that accident that knocked over a half day’s worth of work!), but it will absolutely be the most special, amazing gift you could ever give them. It will help them truly know, deep inside that they are special and loved – and that is one of the keys to a life spent on the Right Road.