It has been a week of sports and musical theater in my household. Our family has been watching the Olympics on television every night, while during the day our daughter rehearsed for The Rep’s production of “Singing on a Star” as part of the organization’s Summer Musical Theater Intensive.
One thing that gold-medal winners Gabby, Michael and Missy all have in common with the kids in SMTI is the support of their parents and family. While the news media covers only the overbearing tyrant Little League coaches who lose it on the field and television would have us believe that all stage parents look like the scary women of “Dance Moms,” the Olympics and SMTI tell a different story.
It is a story of parents who have sacrificed time, money and (sometimes) emotional well-being in order to help their children live into and develop their God-given talents. The support these parents offer is something different than helicopter parenting or the everyone-gets-a-blue-ribbon approach to life. These parents don’t offer coddling or overcompensation. They provide encouragement during training, indefatigable faith during competition and a shoulder to cry on when the child doesn’t make the finals or get the call back. There is something that happens to children when they know that someone believes in them. It’s infectious.
In my tradition, we baptize babies, and we always baptize during a worship service. For Presbyterians, baptism of babies is not a sign of conversion, but a visible sign of God’s invisible grace. We are acknowledging that God claims this child even before the child can know God. The parents promise to nurture the child in the Christian faith, and the entire church makes that promise as well. Our hope is that the child being baptized will grow up not only knowing God through Jesus Christ, but also knowing that they have a number of people who believe in him/her.
As Linus says in “Snoopy the Musical,” “Wouldn’t it be great if everyone believed in everyone?” Charlie Brown answers, “Yeah, starting with me.”
Right now, in our broken world, everyone doesn’t believe in everyone, but everyone can believe in someone. Whether you are a parent or an aunt or neighbor or friend of a child, you can make a world of difference by letting that child know that you believe God has given them wonderful gifts and that you expect to see great things.
Not everyone is going to land on the stage of Arkansas Repertory Theatre and only a very few will ever see a gold medal, but everyone has gifts to share and talents to grow. Whether you are a parent, an aunt, a neighbor, a teacher, a coach or a friend, one of the best things you can do in life is to help a child grow into the person God created him or her to be.
The Rev. Anne Russ is a pastor of First Presbyterian Church of North Little Rock. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.