Meet Sam, my three year-old grandson. Sam lives two thousand long miles away on the west coast, but I know he’s reminded of his grandma each night, because his mom gives him a little message from me before he closes his eyes. It’s only five words long, but Sam falls asleep internalizing this message every night, knowing that what he hears is true. This simple blessing has the power to impact his life…
I first became aware of the simple idea of ‘blessing a child’ when I read a brilliant book, written for those involved in children’s ministry, by Rev. Dr. Leanne Hadley. Blessed to Be a Blessing: Sacred Circle Time for Young Children is a fifteen-minute model designed specifically to move little ones beyond “learning about God” to “experiencing God” through ritual, wonder, story, prayer, and blessing.
The part that intrigued me most about this model was the use of a blessing, which comes at the end of Sacred Circle Time and is given to each child in turn. The adult makes the sign of a cross on the child’s forehead or hand, looks into their eyes and tells them, YOU are a blessing.
When I first tried this out on my little grandson, it didn’t go down very well. I lay down next to him at bedtime and asked him to look at my eyes while I traced the shape of a cross on his forehead. Sam, YOU are a blessing, I said. He looked puzzled. What? he said, No, I’m not!
I laughed with him, said, Oh yes you are! and tucked him into bed. So much for that, I thought to myself. And the next day I was on the plane, heading back home to Michigan.
But I couldn’t seem to shake this idea of blessing him, and a couple of weeks ago, I was back on the west coast and decided to try again. Sam, Grandma’s got something special to tell you, I whispered at bedtime, as I lay next to him. I reached my hand to his forehead, drew the shape of a cross and repeated those five little words: Sam, YOU are a blessing. And this time, that little boy smiled, reached out to me, drew a cross shape on my forehead and said, Grandma, YOU are a blessing.
If you are a parent or grandparent, you will know what a powerful moment that was for me. The next morning, when his mama asked him what I’d said before he’d fallen asleep, Sam couldn’t quite remember the words and simply said, I’m special.
Do you want your little one to know how special and wonderful they are? Bless them each night. They will internalize those words and grow up not only knowing that they are a true blessing, but will live it out in their lives, and pass those blessings on to others, just like my little grandson did to me.