My sister has always been good with kids. She has the patience and the kindness and the key voice change required to get them to both listen and understand you. When she was 16, she started working at a summer camp where she quickly became highly and widely adored by all. They called her, “Miss Natalee” and the name fit.
A few years later, after she graduated high school, she entered college as a Child Development major and got a job as a Preschool Teacher’s Assistant while she finished her degree. It was hard. She worked hard. But even though some days at the preschool were exhausting and some night classes were worse, she still managed to get up every morning and put a smile on her face, because she knew those kids deserved it and that she loved them with all her heart.
When my sister got out of school, she started to specialize her zone of work to kids with special needs. She wanted them to be known rather than just sympathized for and nervously looked at. About a year ago, she took a job as a shadow for a little girl named Tess who was born with sensory processing disorder and apraxia as a result of being born extremely premature. Many people might have been intimidated by a case like this, but my sister took in stride, understanding that no matter how hard a day was for her, it was 10 times harder for Tess.
Last fall, my church hosted a Harvest Festival for Halloween and invited families to come out in their costumes to play games, exchange candy, etc. My sister and I signed up to run a face painting booth where we spent the evening creating subpar masterpieces on children’s cheeks.
One 6-year-old reviewer of my work called it, “Okay.” Another said, “Thanks, I guess.”
After we were done, when the last kid walked away with an average amount of satisfaction, we made our way to the buffet to overeat. With our plates stacked high and our hands still cramping, we took a seat around one of the tables and ate and shared stories of our failed face paintings with our fellow churchgoers. Once the meal was finished, the MC announced it was time to reveal the winners of the pumpkin carving competition. My sister and I turned our chairs forward and as we awaited the winners, we saw a little boy turn around in his chair. He glanced at me briefly, then looked at my sister and smiled. A few seconds later, the MC announced the winner to be none other than this little boy. He went up on stage and collected his prize, then walked back to his table to hug his mom, all the while glancing over at my sister with a smile.
My mom made a comment about how cute all of the pumpkins had come out and was about to suggest we start cleaning up, when suddenly a little voice interrupted her. The little boy walked up to the table with caution, his eyes on the ground, and my sister immediately greeted him with a smile and congratulations. He blushed and said thank you and then immediately looked back down at his feet. The group of us exchanged a smile, then we all watched in amazement as the boy slowly walked towards my sister and climbed up on her lap. We were stunned. Had she met him in the preschool room where she volunteers on Sundays? Had he been in her group for Vacation Bible School in the summer?
“No,” my sister said after he left, “I’ve never talked to him before.”
Later that week, when we were back at church on Sunday morning, a woman came up to my mom and I to talk about the Harvest Festival and what a success she thought it was.
“Not to mention I saw little Aaron sitting on Natalee’s lap at the end of the night.”
“Yeah, he really latched on to her out of nowhere, it was so cute!”
“He’s not usually like that, but sometimes they just know.”
“What do you mean?”
She went on to explain that Aaron had a few different learning disabilities and was often very shy and slow to take to other people. But there must have been something about my sister, some sort of undeniable goodness that made him trust her instantly.
“Sometimes they just know.”
They know, I know, & I hope you know.