Do you ever feel like you don’t fit in? I learned something this week during Vacation Bible School. We’re all WIERD in our own way, and our uniqueness makes us NEEDED!I observed a tall seven-year-old girl among a group of smelly boys. She stood out. She held back a bit. I saw myself in that girl and began to devise a plan of intervention.
Social psychologist, Dr. Gregory Walton, has been doing various studies from Stanford University. “Outsiders” are targeted and asked to “help others to feel included” as incoming Freshmen. Here’s how:
- “Outsider” upperclassmen are chosen as part of a leader team.
- They are trained in how to share personal stories, including quotes and illustrations pertaining to “getting involved.”
- Upperclassmen shared their stories with this team of how Freshman orientation helped them to grow and enjoy college.
Without exception, on varying college campuses, these “chosen outsiders,” found renewed purpose, enthusiasm and even improved physical health. (This was all documented as the study continued for several years- tracking each student.)
If it works at Stanford University, surely it can work at Vacation Bible School! I gave it a try.
- I invited this little girl to share her stories with the group and helped her to make them short and purposeful.
- Other VBS leaders encouraged her and shared their own experiences about feeling left out and how they grew through it.
- She learned how to explain: 1) We all feel left out at times; 2) Every one struggles, but we must not get wrapped up in bad selfish feelings; 3) Having a heart of love and compassion for others is the key.
I am no Stanford professor, but I have been thrilled to see the light go on in the eyes of one tall seven-year-old girl! Her mother even commented on the change she had observed at home!
Have you been wrapped up and strangled by bad feelings? Remind yourself of the inherent value you possess as a human being and child of God.
Reject the inward-focus that leaves you racked by self-pity and bitterness. Reach out to help those around you by sharing your story with honesty and humor. If it feels WIERD at first, the change will be apparent and the smiles will multiply.