How often do you second guess yourself? We live in a society where others constantly question rather than support our actions. Increasingly, adults and children are being raised on a diet of self-doubt and the wishes and opinions of others. This environment is risky for both parents and children. Children raised under this shadow of doubt often lack the emotional and decision making competency to explore the world. Led by fear not encouragement, children often lack freedom fueled by hope and expectation. Under this emotional harness we often become our own harshest critic.
During grade school our end of the school year picnic was our yearly highlight. Excitement would grow as June approached, and we would cross off the days in May. Chaperones, cake sales and talk about games, rides and cotton candy filled recess and lunch conversation. Finally, June would arrive and a countdown and prayers for a sunny day would begin. Every June day we would place a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary in our classroom window. She would be looking out the window, and we would ask her to bless our school picnic with sun and fun. I did not want to take any chances so I looked for a statue of Mary at home. I could find no statue. I knew I was in trouble. On my dresser I had a statue of my namesake Joseph. Why not use him? After all he was her husband. I put him on my window ledge and my worries were gone.
The day before the picnic the thunderstorms started. Gutters overflowed and basements were mopped. My hopes were dashed. Why had I used Joseph and not Mary? I was to blame. Riding to school on picnic day the rain hid my tears. In class I sagged into my chair and looking up saw sister standing next to me. Seeing my tears she walked me back to the cloakroom. She knelt beside me and asked what was wrong. I said: “It is my fault. I didn’t use a statue of Mary.” She smiled, gave me a hug and asked whose statue I had used. I told her Joseph. She said: “Mary would have been proud you chose Joseph.” She pulled a starched white linen handkerchief out of her habit sleeve and wiped away my tears. Placing her hands on my shoulders she said: “Maybe this storm needed both Joseph and Mary?”
Back in class we lined up for the bus. As we walked out of school the rain suddenly stopped and the sun chased the dark clouds across the sky. Pulling off our raincoats we screamed with delight and dashed around a parking lot of puddles. For some reason I suddenly stopped and turned around to look back at the school. A few feet away I saw sister standing with her hands folded looking up at the sky. Her lips moved silently. She turned towards me and our eyes met. She pointed to the sky and said one word: “Joseph.” We both began to laugh.
That day I learned about trust, love and acceptance. Sister made me believe my best is always enough. She taught me why fear, anxiety, shame and guilt hide the sun. Today, as a pediatrician I realize self acceptance allows parents, children and teens to pursue lives filled with confidence and happiness. I now know the greatest gift each of us can give to ourselves and another is the limitless power of choice. The power to choose, unhindered by the judgment of others, who we are and who we wish to become. That day in second grade I learned how to bring out the sun and chase away the rain.