Exactly What All Children Need
I remember a few years back calling my then 5 year old niece Payton in California on the phone and asking her what she was going to do today. After a thoughtful pause, she announced loudly, “PLAY!!...and then I think I'll have a popsicle, a grape one.” I remember smiling, thinking this was a pretty solid plan for the day. I hung up the phone and left for work. Funny, I cant remember a single thing I did that day, but I can remember her little voice, saying those words, and the smile that came instantly.
I see my niece Payton here in Kenya, in all the sticky hands of the 5-year olds, placing their hands into mine, pulling me forward to play. I feel my niece Payton here in the big brown eyes that have me saying yes to things like sprinting down dirt roads, laughing and gasping for air. I hear my niece Payton here in the announcement of grand plans, of small voices with big big dreams.
There’s a little girl named Evelyn who goes to school in the Huruma, one of the areas reached by AYP. I’ve met her a few times, and boy is she beautiful. You can feel her in the room, even before you see her, she’s big like that. Yesterday she came over to me in her little purple pants, and motioned for me to bend down, “I’m going to be somebody,” she said, and looked me in the eyes with a smile. Her small voice barely containing her big dreams. “Yes you are,” I replied loudly, “you already are.”
I have seen, felt and heard here in Kenya. And this is what I know. A child is a child. No matter where they live. A child is a child. Here at Africa Yoga Project hundreds of kids are being reached each week in the slums. Kids just like Evelyn, who look up to these teachers as role models, and superhero’s, bringing the power of play and movement each week. These AYP teachers grew up in these neighborhoods and they embody hope to these kids. Through yoga, I promise you, change is happening on a deep level. On dirt floors, with cracked walls, and broken windows, children are becoming EMPOWERED. This could happen anywhere in the world. I have been given the privilege of observing, and what has been shown to me by these amazing teachers is what children need.
1) Love them: open your arms, if a child walks towards you, open your arms. Open them BIG and wrap your arms around their world, hold on a few seconds longer than you think you should.
2) Show them: take their picture, then show them their smiles. Tell them how you see them. Tell them they are beautiful.
3) Believe them: believe IN them. This makes all the difference, and we all know it. Be that one person.
4) Be honest with them: do not say or promise things you cannot fulfill. Help inspire trust.
5) Play with them: get dusty. get dirty. get sticky. If a lollipop ends up in your hair, you did a good job.
You don't need a cape to be a superhero. The teachers here show me that everyday. Believe that you are powerful: and you are. Believe you have something to give: and you do. Believe in the power of play: and PLAY. How?? Just begin.