While at the beach with my grandchildren recently, I saw a group of giggling young girls, maybe in the 9-10 year old range, who were sitting in a little circle on the sand under the warm summer sun. My first thought, as a grandmother, was something like… “I hope they have sunblock on.”
My second thought was something wonderful, remembering being with my friends and giggling about who-knows-what on a warm, carefree summer day at the beach.
But as I passed this little circle of girls, I noticed something way more important than sunblock and memories. I noticed that there was one little girl sitting on the fringe of the circle. She had not been drawn in. I’d like to say not drawn in rather than excluded, but my heart sank with the possibility of the latter.
The girl sat with her arms wrapped around her knees and her chin resting on her knees. She looked like a little ball, ready to either roll in… or roll away. But the choice did not seem to be hers.
In these seconds that seemed like eternity, I may have taken four or five steps. But just as I was about to transcend my role as Grandma and step back into my teacher mode (I taught for 30 years) and explain sensitivity and kindness… one little girl quietly shimmied over a few inches, grabbed the arm of the little girl who looked like a little ball, and drew her in.
Instantly, the little girl looked no longer like a little ball ready to roll away. And she smiled.
My heart felt great happiness at that moment for not only the girl who was drawn in, but most especially for the little girl who opened the circle. It takes courage and kindness and great sensitivity to be the one who opens the circle. In my years of teaching, I saw young people struggle with this over and over again… the handling of other people. I used to teach a poem by Edna St. Vincent Millay that spoke of it. This is part of it…
We do not proceed, we only/Roll down the mountain,/Like disbalanced boulders, crushing before us many/Delicate springing things, whose plan it was to grow.
We can choose how we proceed. Opening the circle brings such wealth of experience and warmth and allows other “delicate springing things” to grow. The little girl at the beach who opened the circle that morning already knows this. I think she is a hero.