Wednesday, December 16, 2009
Running Helps One Child Overcome Her Fears
I have just completed the fall quarter at school in San Diego, and returned to New Hampshire on Monday. My goal over the Christmas holiday is to get a couple of other people who run with our kids to join the blog. In the meantime, I can share running stories firsthand: something that is much harder to do when I am 3,000 miles away.
I would like to share an experience with one of our children who has only lived at St. Charles for a few weeks. I was sitting at the table finishing supper, and I felt a light tap on my shoulder. I turned around to find Anna (names must be changed for the privacy of the children) looking at me with absolute terror in her eyes and wanting to know who I was. I smiled and introduced myself. She moved behind Mother Paul Marie, who was also at the table, and hid herself. After a few moments, she gathered enough courage to come back over to me and ask me my name. She did not run away when I answered this time, but had both hands in her mouth and was still shaking with terror. After about a minute she gathered the courage to tell me her name: Anna. Clearly, this is a child with high anxiety levels and who wants to meet new people but has to struggle with her terror to do it.
The next morning, Sister Maximilian was telling me how Anna’s run went the day before. Since Anna is a beginner, Sister takes her for a walk/run by herself after the other children come home from their run. Sister is careful to give Anna a lot of positive encouragement. She was talking to Anna about how to respond to strangers when they say “hello” during a run (it is rude to ignore people yet we want the children to know not to stop and begin a conversation). Sister suggested to Anna that it is nice to say “Merry Christmas” to people this time of year. Soon they were passing the school, and the janitor was walking near the building. Sister Maximilian said, “Good afternoon,” as they passed. Anna said, “Merry Christmas!” The man smiled and Anna was beaming with happiness as Sister Maximilian pointed out to her how she had made that man’s day happier.
Children learn more than running during their runs. In this case Anna had the opportunity during her walk/run to confront a big fear she has, and to learn how to be polite to a stranger in an appropriate and beautiful way. She is on the road to learning so much, and her daily walk/ runs are helping her to do it.