Do you have five people in your world you could choose from to call if you had a flat tire or had a terrible day or got yelled at at work or got bad news from the doctor? Do you have people who would likely bring you a meal after you had surgery or help you move a couch or pick up your kid from school if an appointment went long?
My friend Kyle Stewart, who is a pediatrician in south OKC, has said that every child and teen needs at least five people in his or her life to call on for support. They need this to thrive and optimally develop. He encourages adults to think of the children they know, hold up a hand, and name off at least five stable supporters in each of their lives. He says the people named make up that child’s team.
These five can be family—parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, older siblings. But they also can be teachers, neighbors, church friends, tutors, mentors. The key is that they love and encourage the child, are somehow accessible, and can be counted on for help when needed.
Some kids have way more than five adults on their support teams. They could quickly name ten-plus people who would help them if needed. They have multiple people to speak into their lives, offer encouragement, and point them toward truth, peace, and hope. That is a good thing.
But not every child in our city is so lucky. The director at a nearby ministry said a 6-year-old boy he hadn’t met before knocked on their door to tell them his mom was dead. He didn’t know who else to tell. A teenager recently called his pastor because someone had pulled a gun on him. He didn’t have relatives he could call.
These situations would be hard for the most mature adult to deal with. How much more so a child? And even more so a child who doesn’t have a rich support network to support him?
Obviously, we can’t be a part of every child’s team of five. But I pray God would give us eyes to see those for whom He does want us to be His hands and feet, whether for long-term or short-term. I pray He would have those within His church be quick to embrace those who need more people on their support teams.
Julie Serven craves shalom for people and places. She enjoys editing, helping people with literacy skills, hearing people’s stories, exploring all things OKC, yoga, NPR, and spending time with her ultracool family.