Thursday, July 21, 2011

Actions Speak Louder

Before we left for vacation our family spent the afternoon making some new friends.  We did not go to the park or the aquarium, but rather to a local homeless shelter.  It was way out of my comfort zone and to be honest, I was extremely nervous about going.  What would we see?  What would we do?

I wasn't completely in the dark.  We had met with the program director prior to our visit and I knew that we had no "official" duties.  We were just supposed to hang out with the families and let them know that someone cared enough about them to spend time with them.  I was totally on board until the day of our scheduled visit and then I wanted nothing more than to just write a check to somebody and say, "God Bless!"  Yup.  I am that pathetic.  But, I couldn't simply write a check.  Backing out was not an option. 

The whole event had been instigated by my kids.  They had witnessed homelessness and now they wanted to do something to help.  I was stuck.  So we loaded up the mini-van and off we went. 

When we arrived I realized that I was not the only one that was apprehensive.  It was obvious that the adults living in the shelter were skeptical of our intentions.  They were polite but closed.  Thank God for children.  Our kids and their kids immediately began to play.  I put #3 on a blanket and joined the kids in making sidewalk drawings.  Before long we were playing jump rope games and climbing trees.  The adults had gravitated outdoors and soon a game of volleyball was on.

I was so pleased with how uneventful the afternoon was.  It felt natural and un-forced.  My kids played nicely and did not say innapropriate things like, "So, what's it like to be homeless?" or, "Gee, it must really stink to have nothing!"  They said nothing that would scar someone for life.  I could breath easily again and even set up our next volunteer time.

On the drive home we talked a little bit about the day.  Our kids had enjoyed playing and understood that our time at the shelter was intentional but I wasn't sure that they really "got it".  Boy, was I wrong.

It is our habit to pray with our kids before bedtime.  That night #1's prayer went something like this, "God, thank you that I am rich.  Help the homeless people to be safe and get what they need. Help people to help them and know what to do.   I love my family and I love you God.  Amen."  Wow.  I was stunned.  Totally unprompted, my little man acknowledged that he is blessed and that he also had a responsibility to help others.

I am so thankful that I did not chicken out.  I'm so thankful we went to the shelter instead of just having a family meeting where we all helped seal the envelope that contained a check.  The most powerful parenting my husband and I did that day had nothing to do with words and everything to do with action.

I hope we are courageous enough to make that choice more often.  I suspect our kids will remember what we do much more than what we say.  Ouch.

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