Galatians 6:2 says, Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ.
Is this something we teach our kids or does it just happen?
And then this happened … I read my 17-year-old daughter’s private blog (aka photo journal/diary). Settle down! I have permission (as do her Daddy, Grandparents, and a very few special friends). I also have her permission to share the post with you, as long as you promise not to have an overtly parental reaction … or at least promise to keep it to yourself until you’ve read the full entry.
Warning: brutally honest, messy post ahead
As I’m driving to the bank this afternoon to deposit Kadi Tiede Photography money, I notice this young man standing on the side of the street. There are a few things that I noticed immediately. The first thing I noticed was that he was really cute, probably about 18-22 years old with a short buzz hair cut and piercing blue eyes. He was an extremely good-looking guy. The next thing that I noticed was his clothes – dirty, ratty old clothes that maybe hadn’t been clean in months. He didn’t have a backpack or a jacket or a tired dog by his side, it was just him. The last thing I noticed was that he was holding a sign. A cardboard sign that said, “need $41.50 for bus ticket. anything helps. sorry. thanks.”
Forty-one dollars and fifty cents. That’s it. I was a mere thirty feet from the bank where I would pull up in my nice little red Camry and deposit a significant amount of cash, just like I did last week, and just like I would do next week. He needed just FORTY dollars. That’s all. Why is it that I have so much when he has so little? Is it in the choices or the circumstances he has been a part of?
So I deposited my checks and withdrew forty dollars and turned my car around.
I felt really good about handing him that cash … I felt like I’d really done something good – for about .5 seconds. That’s when the questions starting running through my mind … what is his name? where is he going? where did he come from? is he hungry? should I have given him extra money for food? I have giftcards – I should have given them to him. I should have talked to him. What’s his story? He must have a story. Is he okay? Is he going to be okay? Did I do the right thing? Is he actually homeless? Does he actually have money? Is he going to spend that money on drugs or really buy that bus ticket?
I thought that if I was ever in his place and to the level where I needed to stand outside with a sign, asking for money, that I wouldn’t want people to assume that they knew my story and assume that they knew exactly what I was going to spend that money on. I wouldn’t want people deciding not to give me something just because they had made up their mind that I was something that I probably wasn’t.
I had never seen this man before and the second I handed him the money and he thanked me, he left his spot on the corner and started walking to the bus stop.
I wish I had talked to him. I wish I had asked his name and his story. I wish I had done something more. I wish I had been able to really have a conversation with him … to pray with him! Something. Anything. More.
I’ve thought about him all day. His face might forever be engrained in my memory. I’m never going to know his name, but I decided that I want to do something more – tomorrow.
Rochester’s corners are filled with homeless people on every intersection and I pass at least one or two every day. I don’t want to continue to pass them or to be too busy to look at them or to be in such a hurry that I buzz right past them without even giving them a second thought. “Someone else will help them,” I think every time.
I’m tired of it. I’m sick and tired of not doing anything about it. I want to be that someone who does something – even if that something is small.
50 Bible Tracts ordered. 10 McDonalds gift cards purchased. (I’m going to buy these as I need them) 50 handwritten notes written. 50 envelopes stuffed with love, with ways to find help, locally and emotionally and physically and spiritually.
I’m stocking up my car and my purse with these envelopes. So the next time I see someone on a corner, holding a sign, I’m going to forget about any plans that I have and I’m going to roll down my window and hand them an envelope and maybe ask for their name. Maybe their story. Maybe have a conversation.
Something. Anything. More.
So there’s that. Compassion. Obedience to God’s whisperings.
I asked Kadi how she turned out this way. “Are you a fluke, kid, or do your brothers have a shot at ‘getting’ this compassion thing too?” (Translation: Do I get to take any credit for this ,cuz if I do I want it. Come on! We all know that if your kid does something terrible, the parent most certainly gets the blame, so I want a little credit if there’s any coming to me. We take what we can get. This parenting gig doesn’t pay in cold cash, people!)
In essence, Kadi said, “Mom, this is just what we do” and then talked about a few of the ways she’s seen us do this as a family her entire life …
- Our basement schoolroom was made into a makeshift hotel when that NE family needed a place to live while their wife/mom was at Mayo Clinic.
- The guest room was painted and packed to the ceiling with “dorm stuff” when that darling college student needed a place to stay for the summer during her internship. (We call that darling our other daughter/sister now)
- The dining room table has expanded to hold additional leaves and bodies at more meals and holidays than we can remember.
- Our oikos (household) stretched and wiggled to enfold a single mom and her family into our own family such that (until she recently remarried) it was hard to tell where our families started and stopped.
- The pet count (and poop count) doubled when our daughter’s friend moved to college and needed a foster family for her dog.
- We celebrate our birthdays with random acts of kindness.
- Cambridge Academy’s enrollment has seen various increases and decreases as we’ve welcomed more lovies who need a place at the table – on the couch – or in front of the fire while their parents pick up their other children in different countries, go to work, or battle illness.
And there was my answer. We can talk a blue streak about compassion. We can tell our kids a million and one ways that they can practice compassion.
Or we can do something.
We don’t do it because the world is watching.
We don’t do it because the church is watching.
We don’t do it for the glory or the rewards.
We do it because God asks us to tell us to …
Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ.
… and because our children are watching.
Compassion is a legacy worth leaving.
**If you’re going all parental now … read this … Yes, we’ve talked to our kids about how it’s probably wiser (as a rule) to give money to a reputable organization who will use the money to directly help people like the young man to whom Kadi gave the $40 and those to whom she is going to give the handwritten notes, Bible tracts, and McDonalds cards. So, dear reader, please don’t start down that tirade. We know. We get it. That’s our typical practice.
More importantly, we’ve also talked to (and modeled) for our kids that the single most important thing we must do as those who claim to know and walk with Jesus, is to know God’s Word, walk in obedience to it, and when HE asks you to do something … do it.
Though this mom groaned for a nanosecond when I read the first half of Kadi’s post, by the end I was praising God and crying tears of thanks and pride (yes, pride … God and I talk about that too).