Teachable Moments

What You Can Learn From a Snowflake

There has been so much snow this winter that even the local weatherman is tired of talking about it.  But while we have the snow for at least a couple more weeks, we may as well as make the most of it. Thank you to a wonderful article by Charles Q. Choi on LiveScience (2007) for all the great snowflake facts.

Just like snowflakes, children are both strong and fragile.  “Snowflakes are created when snow crystals stick together. Some contain several hundred crystals.” They are so strong, they survive atmospheric changes and winds yet, catch one on your finger tip and it can immediately melt away.  

Each child holds within themselves a strength that can help them overcome incredible odds; not all children, however, have the opportunities or resources to nurture that strength.  Psychologists call this internal working aptitude resiliency.  One of the keys to a child accessing and exhibiting resiliency is if they have adults who believe in them, coach them, and cheer them on toward goals they can attain.  While strength emerges, children need intentional care and gentle responses to help guide them into that strength. Carelessness can make a child weak and vulnerable with just an arbitrary word or action.  We should honor both the strength in the child and the gentleness required to nurture it.

Just like snowflakes, no two children are alike.  “The exact form each snow crystal takes depends heavily on tiny changes in temperature and humidity it encounters as it falls, resulting in extraordinary diversity.  “It is probably safe to say that the possible number of snow crystal shapes exceeds the estimated number of atoms in the known universe,” Nelson said (Jon Nelson at Ritsumeikan University in Kyoto, Japan). While smaller crystals that are not yet formed may be the same, it would be impossible to find the two that might be alike.

Individuation is the gift of being and expressing one’s self as a unique individual. Children from the age of 2 realize they are their own person and start making choices to set themselves apart.  Have you ever asked a 2-year old what they want to wear to church? Many will enjoy putting together ensembles that reflect bizarre preferences that both delight and embarrass.  God in His infinite creativity, created each child in their own way, and the best way to celebrate our God-given differences is to both acknowledge and accommodate them when we can.  Next time you see a 2-year old with purple tights, a pink tutu and a cowboy hat, smile and enjoy!

Just like snowflakes, children can respond to the light of the gospel and reflect the grace of God in illuminating ways.  “Ice crystals in the atmosphere are also believed to influence the production of lightning by helping electric charges build up in clouds.”

The Spirit of God can move and work in the heart of a child. Teaching the gospel to children and giving them the opportunity to respond to the light of the gospel is key to their faith formation as well as to the well-being of the church.  All generations are important in the body of Christ. Teach children truths about God, pray for the Spirit to touch their hearts, and watch for signs of spiritual fruit. “I am the light of the world” (John 8:12a) – and this light is available to children as well as adults.  

Just like snowflakes, children are immeasurable in what they bring to this world.  “A typical snow crystal weighs roughly one millionth of a gram. This means a cubic foot of snow can contain roughly one billion crystals. A rough estimate of the number of snow crystals that fall to Earth per year is about 1 followed by 24 zeros,” Nelson told LiveScience.

Underestimating what a child can contribute hurts the child’s sense of self-efficacy (the belief that they can do something successfully).  If the child does not believe they can, then they won’t.  Just like one little snowflake may not weigh very much, in the right circumstances, it makes a huge difference  Encouraging children to achieve goals, work hard, contribute what they can and enjoy the ability to accomplish tasks are key ways to help foster a child’s positive attitude as well as motivation to discover and use the gifts and talents God has given them.  Children can make significant contributions to those around them given the opportunity to do so.

Dear Reader, we might as well make the most of this winter.  If you can’t beat it, join it – and discover from a little part of God’s amazing world what can be learned in our everyday lives.  One of God’s tiniest creations, the snowflake, can give us teachable moments about the tiniest ones amongst us – children. Let’s not overlook an opportunity to learn even at this time of year.

May your winter be white and your temperatures increase to above freezing!

Fondly, and warmly yours, Elizabeth


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