One of the most difficult things about running a ministry that both takes care of children and relies on fundraising is that it can be easy to forget that our kids are just that…Kids. They are not a project, they are not a charity, and they are not supposed to be perfect…They are supposed to be kids. One of our sponsors in particular, Karen Whalen, reminds of us this in such a great way when we talk with her or when she is down on a trip. Whenever the kids do something that irritates us, when they are not “grateful” for a gift, or when we are frustrated about a situation, she always says something along the lines of, “That is something that Josh (her son and a good friend of ours too) used to do.” It is such a great reminder to us that they are kids just like we used to be, just like our kids are, and just like kids will continue to be for the rest of time. They will push limits and they will push our buttons, they are learning who they are and how to live, and most of all they are seeking a connection with adults who love them and want to help them succeed. They are just kids.
I was reminded of this while we were celebrating Christmas together both at our party this past Saturday and on Christmas Day. I know I’ve mentioned this before, but the kids are allowed to ask for one gift from their sponsors each year and it is always interesting to see how they finally settle on what they will ask for. Usually they start off by just showing us a picture in a magazine of some cell phone, computer, tablet, or pair of shoes that they have never even heard of before and that costs more than my monthly salary and we tell them “no” but to keep thinking. They then usually move to something like a Playstation 4 or a PSP and we tell them “no” because it is still too expensive. This year, they asked us for iPhones and you could tell they thought we were going to say no but instead we told them we would think about it. I’ve mentioned it before, but we explained to them how iPhones and tablets worked and how they would not really be able to use them the way they were designed to be use. They would not have internet access, a data plan, and we would not buy them a sim card to put in their phone. It would be, in essence, a device that they could download music, play games, and take pictures (mostly selfies so far).
I cannot accurately describe the excitement as each of our older kids (except for BiGuedy) asked for either an Amazon Fire or an iPhone. They were so thrilled. In my head I kept thinking that they should ask for something more sensible and usable. I was hoping they may ask for nice clothes, a nice pair of shoes, or some other gift that they could really get some use out of but one after the other asked for the same electronic device. It struck me as this was happening and even more so when they opened their gifts…They are not supposed to be sensible, they are supposed to be kids. They should ask for something like that because it is what they want and it is something that they can show all of their friends (like we all used to do) the awesome gift they got this year.
I don’t know if any of you have my same thought process with this. I can sometimes get so caught up in the reality of where we live and how blessed our kids are to be in the situation that they are in that I can forget that they are just kids. I want them to always be thankful and never complain because there are so many other children who do not have what they have. I want them to understand that, at least where we live in Haiti, it is a luxury to eat 3 meals per day. I want them to be on their best behavior and show gratitude when they meet their sponsors or when teams come down regardless of how they feel. I want them to be thankful that they have tutors who give them 3 hours every day of help with homework and lessons. I want them to not complain if they have a meal that they don’t like. I could go on and on, but hopefully you see my point. When I want these things from our kids it’s only because I sometimes forget…
They are just kids!
They are supposed to complain when their pants aren’t the right style. No kids wants to sit in lessons for an hour after school has already finished. If they didn’t complain about meals I should be worried, I know I complained all of the time when I was their age. They have bad days, times when they are ungrateful, and times when they just want to hang out with their friends and I need to be sensitive to that. I also do not want them to live their lives like they are indebted to anyone, least of all me. As parents we want our children to be grateful for the sacrifice we make for them and to say “thank you” when they are given things. But, as parents, we do not want our children to feel like they owe us anything. In the same way, I do not want our children to ever feel like they are below us, or to live their lives like they owe us something.
I want them to live like they are loved.
There is a big difference. We all have been taken care of by someone at some time in our lives. We were all children and we all needed someone else to feed us, clothe us, and to take care of our needs. When we were (or if we are still) in that position, the people who took care of us could make us feel 1 of 2 ways:
- Like we were cared for because we were loved and that the people in our lives would like nothing more than to be there whenever we needed them.
- Like we were a hassle, an inconvenience, and even worse a responsibility that robbed them of their joy.
Our children should understand the reality of the world and culture in which they live. They should know that many children do not have what they have (while many others have a great deal more because they have parents who love them). They should have an understanding of how blessed they are and how they are taken care of no matter what. But they should never feel less than us. They should never feel like an inconvenience, a hassle, or a charity/project. They should be able to be kids. To live their lives in a safe and loving environment as they learn what it means to be adults. I hope that our kids here always live like they are loved and never feel like they are indebted to us!