Life Lessons Taught By An 8 Year Old

“WALK!”, she screamed for the umpteenth time in just over an hour.

Taking her hand, I guided her to the door, tightening my grip so she wouldn’t dart ahead of me, as the cool fall breeze brushed across her face.

We walked around the schoolyard a few times, and while my hand and eyes were constantly on her, my mind wandered off, wondering how much longer it would be until I could go home.

It had been a rough morning. I had been assigned to sub in a class for autistic children, and while I have subbed in the class before, I had never met 8-year-old Lea. (Not her real name)

My first introduction to her was when she rushed into the arms of her teacher.

“Lea! I’m so happy to see you,” he gushed as her arms wrapped around his neck.

“Let’s get in your seat and have breakfast,” he continued as he gently unlocked her arms and guided her to the chair.

As Lea ate her breakfast, he asked me if I would be comfortable enough to work with Lea, one-on-one, for the day.

“Sure,” I replied, unaware that I would leave that day with multiple bruises on both arms, and showcasing a beautiful bite mark.

But it would be one of the most fulfilling days of my life, and I have Lea to thank for the valuable lessons she taught me.

“You either live life – bruises, skinned knees and all – or you turn your back on it and start dying.” ~Unknown

There are days each of us face that seem to be routine and mundane. There are also days which are harder than others. Days we want to pull the covers back over our heads and shut the world out.

Life can bruise us, bite us and leave its mark on our lives.

It is a series of events and circumstances of which we don’t always have control, but we can learn and grow from each experience we encounter on this bumpy road if we choose to.

Lessons From Lea

Lesson 1: Show-up

Lea rides the bus for almost an hour before she gets to school. Between the distance from her house and the other stops along the way, she is sitting in one place longer than most of us could endure. But five days a week, she shows up and takes the day head-on.

Showing up is easy when life is good, but during the hard times we open up ourselves to experiences that will give us opportunities to learn more about ourselves and become stronger.

The sooner we learn to embrace each moment, the more we can fully show up in each part of our life.

Lesson 2: Walk ~ One step at a time.

Occasionally we can become so overwhelmed with the things we have to do that we forget to see the beauty in the day.

Most of us look at the big picture, and we peer too far into the future.

The journey of our lives is a winding road, with ups and downs at many corners. We don’t know what tomorrow will bring, and the future is virtually unpredictable. Worrying about what’s to come often leads to moments of anxiety and stress.

Lea reminded me of, not only the importance of taking one step at a time but also pausing to see the beauty in the journey.

She loves looking up.

By taking in her surroundings, she points out things I miss. The way the clouds dance around the sun, the trees swaying slowly in the breeze, and the scurrying of squirrels as they prepare for the coming winter.

Lea is in no hurry. She takes in the moment given, breaths in and lives life in that moment for a few minutes.

She reminds me that if I look too far ahead, I may lose sight of the little things and sometimes those are the most important.

Lesson 3: Take Time to Dance

On our last walk of the day, Lea let me know she didn’t want to walk anymore and she wasn’t ready to go back to class, by laying herself on the ground.

She wanted to dance.

And there I stood, swaying back and forth to a made-up song, as Lea rested her head on my shoulder, humming along.

There are times when we don’t feel like doing anything. One more ‘to-do’ can send us over the edge.

It’s in those times we must remember it is okay to take a moment, an hour or even a day for just us.

The secret is not to stay there.

Staying in one place for too long can make us become comfortable.

“Comfort can be dangerous. Comfort provides a floor but also a ceiling.” ~ Trevor Noah

Don’t Lose Sight

At some point or another, we have all thought about giving up. No matter what the task is, we get to a point where we can no longer see the light at the end of the tunnel. Sometimes the hardest thing to do is to take the next step when what we want to do is throw the covers over our head and prevent life from scarring or bruising us.

A study done by the American Journal of Health Education states that dancing is an emotional expression and stress reduction because dance helps us to channel positive energy.

As I stood there dancing with Lea, I felt her relax and refocus on the day’s tasks. I noticed a difference in my mood as well. I wasn’t in such a hurry to get on with the day, and I was content to stay there and sway back and forth as we danced and sang our made up song.

Over the weekend, I’ve thought a lot about Lea.

Every time I look down at the multiple bruises on my arms, I smile knowing that there’s a little girl out there showing up every day and not allowing circumstances or situations to define or limit her.

And I remember to embrace the beauty of today.

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