For me, one of the most bothersome injuries is a fingertip cut. Fingers have one of the most dense concentrations of nerve endings in the body, housing millions of sensory receptors that detect touch, pressure, temperature, and pain. At no time is this more apparent than when the fingertip is injured. A cut or other disturbance in the nerve endings of the fingertip causes them to fire constantly, putting the brain on “high alert” and making the skin around the cut hyper-sensitive to any change in pressure or position. The slightest bump to a cut fingertip can send shockwaves of pain on a level completely disproportionate with the size and/or severity of the injury. A similar cut on one’s forearm or leg would hardly be noticed, yet on the fingertip it becomes a major distraction and hindrance.
However, almost all of this pain can be neutralized with the application of a simple yet powerful tool: the band-aid. I don’t fully understand why, but a few hours after covering a fingertip cut with a bandage your brain relaxes its defenses and the nerves return to their normal sensitivity. This “surrogate skin” provides a layer of protection that somehow turns off the alarm bells in the nervous system and says to the brain “it’s safe to let go and relax”.
This summer I was blessed to spend two weeks serving in my church’s children’s ministry. In June, I taught eighteen inquisitive kindergarteners at Vacation Bible School. In July, at the request of my 11-year old daughter, I served as a chaperone at CentriKid camp for 3rd – 6th graders, sometimes called “tweens”.
With the Kindergarteners, I was refreshed by their innocence, lack of cynicism, and raw enthusiasm for life. While their behavior was certainly not perfect by any means, their minds were clear and their hearts unspoiled. With the tweens, I observed the dichotomy of being torn between the comfort of remaining a child and the allure of full-blown adolescence. I also was surprised and impressed to find a depth of maturity and understanding of spiritual concepts that I certainly lacked at that age.
One characteristic common to both groups was the profound change in their interaction with me and the other adult teachers over the course of the week. At the beginning of the week, the outgoing kids would shake your hand and the shy kids would look at their shoes. All were on their guard, not knowing what to expect or who to trust. By the end of the week, those same shy kids were hugging me tight and the outgoing kids were taking me down with a gang tackle. Over the course of just one week in a safe, protected environment these kids flourished. The presence of caring adults and positive programming acted as an emotional band-aid for their young hearts.
Most of my VBS kids and camp kids have loving homes where they are safe and protected. Unfortunately, that is not the case for many youth in Middle Tennessee, and a growing number of elderly as well. This is one of the reasons why I’m proud to work for the YMCA – because we may be the only safe place some may ever know.