“Why can’t I?”
“It’s not fair.”
“Can I have?”
Oh, if I had a nickel for every time I heard one of those phrases come out of the mouths of my four kids. I exclude my youngest only because, at the age of 2, she automatically wants everything.
The other day when my friend Krista and I were walking, we both were bemoaning our kids’ failure to realize that the world, in fact, does not revolve around them. I’m pretty certain the term “self-centered” came up a few times. But we both struggled with how to make them understand that this is a big world, and they occupy only a small part of it.
Now, don’t get me wrong. They’re good kids, even great kids. But just like most kids, they fail to see outside of their very small circle of life.
I suspect Krista and I are not alone in our frustration. We’re trying to convince our kids that there is a bigger world out there and people who are a lot less fortunate than we are.
Face-to-Face with Reality
Then one day, my husband, Mark, and the kids came to pick me up at work. Next door on the church steps were a number of people sleeping. My son, Alex, asked what they were doing. I explained to him that they were homeless and had nowhere else to go, so they were taking refuge on the church steps.
“You mean they’re going to sleep there? They don’t have anywhere else they can go?” he asked.
“Unfortunately, yes,” I answered.
He launched into a barrage of questions about why someone didn’t help them and what happened when it gets really cold or really hot. Or what if they get sick?
I tried my best to explain to him about homeless shelters and organizations to help those who are struggling, but he didn’t seem to understand. Nor did his two sisters.
It wasn’t their fault. In fact, if anyone was to blame it was Mark and I. Our kids are blessed. They live in a comfortable home in a safe neighborhood. They go to a good school and never worry about having food or clothing. Of course they couldn’t imagine a life so foreign to what they know.
Developing a Plan
That evening at dinner, Mark and I talked to the kids about what they had seen and the situation that it represents. They said they understood that people in other countries didn’t have enough food, but didn’t realize it happened right in their own city.
We fielded their questions and then turned the situation back around on them: “How do you think you could help people who have less than you?”
Suddenly they were brainstorming ideas from collecting food for the local food bank to volunteering at local organizations that help people in need. Mark and I helped them focus their ideas a little better and map out a plan of action.
I was amazed at what an impact such a brief experience could have on my kids. Oh, please, don’t get me wrong. We still struggle with “I want” and “Can I have?” But these days, at least for a little while, they seem to be coming fewer and farther between.
Suggestions to Get Started
Here are some of the ideas our family came up with to help those who need a hand:
Volunteer to make crafts with residents at the local Ronald McDonald House. We also went through our movies and donated kid movies we no longer watch so someone else could enjoy them.
Make and serve dinner at a local homeless shelter.
Ask family and friends for donations to take to the local food pantry.
Whatever you and your family decide to do, remember that Jesus said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).