Upon being released from the nursery for the second time within just a few years (I've been in the nursery with Carolyn, Erin, and Madeleine), I want to share a few ponderings.
Being in nursery is a very joyful experience. The children are so quick to love you when you give your heart to them. In this last round of service I had a few that would watch for my lap to be empty and take their turn sitting there. Many of them play on their own and need only a little affirmation, while others need what feels like almost constant care. Much like the rest of the world?
The lessons in nursery are very simple, ranging from about 30 seconds to a few minutes depending on the attention span of the kids. But that's the official lesson time. Really the lesson time starts the moment the first child arrives to when the last one leaves. We learn to love one another, share, be kind, be helpful, that family is important (sweet to see how the siblings help each other), that church is a wonderful place to be, and on and on. It always impresses me that we teach the same things learned in every other class, only on their level. The gospel at its most basic.
Nursery definitely has its entertainment as well. One little girl that loved my lap used to suck her thumb on one hand and run her fingers through my hair with the other. When one little brother would get sad his big brother would tackle him and he would be all smiles (a house of all boys - go figure that's the way they show the love!).
We had a Star Wars lover that kept turning off the lights one day. We asked him to keep them on, and he looked at us very seriously and said, "Star Wars happens at night!" Ah, that explains everything! Plus, I had never thought about that with Star Wars, but true! He had a hard time coming into nursery for a while, and we sat talking about Star Wars one day. I learned his favorite character was Yoda, so the next week I brought Sammy's Yoda action figure. Little guy was super excited until he noticed Yoda was missing a hand (his hand was attached to the light saber and Sam was concerned it would get lost, so we left it home). He got a very serious look on his face and said, “But he doesn't have a hand!” Not wanting to explain all, I told him we couldn't find it but that we would look again at home. “But where’s his hand?!” Home somewhere, we’ll find it. “But he needs a lightsaber!” I know, he needs that too. But look, you can play with Yoda! A little while later one of the little girls walked up and politely asked if she could play with it after he was done. He looked at her totally incredulously and said, “But he’s a boy!” She repeated that she wanted to play with him when he was done. Stronger, like she was some kind of crazy for even asking, “But he’s a BOY!” Worthy of note, he didn't have a problem coming to nursery ever again after that, even when I would forget Yoda.
Rosemary Wixom shared some beautiful thoughts about nursery in a CES fireside:
"A young man in his teens had an experience when he was just a child, a very young child, under the age of three years old. He had been adopted into a family who were members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. His environment changed drastically. He left his home in Eastern Europe and came to live in the eastern United States—a land with a new family, a new language, and new feelings. On Sundays his new family would take him to the nursery. It was in the church, down the hall, in that nursery room when he felt it—when he came to know a security and a love he had never felt before. It was his first experience of really recognizing the Spirit. Now, as a teenager, he occasionally chooses to go down the hall to that same nursery room to hear the sounds, see the sights, and feel the Spirit that he once felt there. How beautiful that nursery is to the eyes of that child who there came to the knowledge of the Spirit of the Holy Ghost."
Nursery is love.
I do have to admit (though I hate to do it) that this round wasn't an easy time for me. The first time I served in the nursery I was there for a year and a half, and it took me six months to let go and allow the real learning to start. So maybe I wasn't there long enough this time?
I don't share that to complain (and believe me it's hard to share this chink in my armor), but because I want to watch for those people looking for someone to care about them. I even wrote about my feelings in my study journal so I could remember, under the topic of UNITY. "Without a constant gathering in, love, bonding, and appreciation for one another, wow, I feel lonely. We're all in the same building, but it feels like two entirely different worlds. It stinks. But I don't want to forget this feeling. I believe it's for a purpose. This experience will hopefully help me build unity in the future. I feel like the only way to be noticed would be to not come, but even then it would probably just be the others in nursery that would notice at first. After a few weeks the primary presidency, and others eventually. But would those others reach out and lift, or would they talk amongst themselves and wonder where I had gone wrong? How have I responded to people in similar situations? How should I? Makes me think that while some don't come to church because of that lack of connection, and maybe there are others that want to be noticed. (Is it the same thing?) Wow. How can you reach out to the whole, individuals, and the lost sheep, and gather them all in?"
Lest anyone judge me, I realize that we shouldn't go to church with more thought than how we can worship God and serve, and not worry about the "socialness" of it. But if that fellowship wasn't part of the gospel, we could all have church at home each week, right? A great man I know in our stake joined the church in his teens. He asked me once how long it takes for a person to stop coming to church if no one says a word to them while they are there. He paused for a moment while I thought in my happy little mind that gosh, we should come to church for God, not to be popular, when he answered his own question with, "Seven weeks. That's how long it took me. Seven weeks." It's real people. We need each other.
I'm so thankful for the time I've had to spend with those little ones. They are definitely in my heart, and I am thankful for all they've taught me.