We just returned from a weeklong vacation in Vail, Colorado. We went to Vail so my younger daughter could attend hockey camp. Vail is an 11-hour drive from our home. That's a long way to go to let my daughter go to hockey camp, especially when our rink runs hockey camps not 20 minutes from our house.
Truthfully, we don't think my daughter is going to ever play on an Olympic hockey team. We know she's not going to make it to the NHL. It's unlikely she'll ever play college hockey. So, why did we invest the time and the money to take her two states away to hockey camp? We did it because it's hard to always stand alone.
You see, here in Kansas, my daughter is an anomaly -- one of the few girls in the city that plays hockey. That means that every time she steps on the ice, she has to prove something to the boys she plays with. She has to prove that she belongs. She feels like she always has to be one stride faster and one shot better than everyone else just to prove she can play with the boys.
When we took her to camp, we chose one that we knew would have a large number of girls. When they played their games at camp, she was on a line that had four girls and one boy. She's never had that experience before. She's never known what it's like to have others like her to stand beside her. She's never enjoyed the camaraderie of a locker room full of girls. Usually, it's just her dressing alone in the back room of our rink.
This week at hockey camp wasn't really about improving her skills or making her a better hockey player (although those were benefits). This week at hockey camp was about reminding my daughter that she doesn't stand alone. It was about reassuring her that she's not weird and she's not the only girl who has ever enjoyed the game. It was about helping her see that there are others that stand with her.
And that's a lesson we can all use. There are times when our kids are going to be asked to stand alone in this world. There are moments when God is going to ask them to stand up for what's right, even when it seems there's no one standing with them. And that's when our kids need our encouragement. They need to know that when they stand alone, we've got their back -- even when none of their friends do.
Standing alone isn't easy. It isn't fun. It takes grit and determination. It takes not caring what anyone else thinks. And it can be a soul-wearying thing to do. It's in those moments when our kids are standing for the things God wants them to stand for that they need our encouragement. They need us to do everything we can to remind them that even though it may seem as if they are standing alone, they aren't. God's standing there with them, and there are other people, other kids, who are also making courageous decisions to stand alone for what's right.
The next time your child stands alone -- whether it's choosing to be who God made them to be even when that's not the norm or choosing to stand for what's right -- be sure to offer encouragement. Be sure to let them know that no one truly stands alone when they are following God's path. Remind them that Jesus said He would be with us wherever we go. Praise them for their courage and determination. And whenever possible, find a way to remind them that there are others standing with them -- even if it means you have to travel 11 hours to do it.