Yesterday I had one of those “man am I doing this right?” parenting moments. Leah, in her innocent, naive, three year old mind is constantly trying to make sense of the world that we live in. And, for the most part, I tend to still see her as a toddler, too young to really grasp the hardships that she will one day begin to witness. But then, like yesterday, she will suddenly surprise me with her insightfulness and understanding and it will make me realize, yet again, that this girl isn’t a baby at all anymore.
We were heading home from the gym and we were stopped at a red light. Leah, gazing out the window, noticed a homeless man holding a sign asking for money. “Why is he holding that sign?” she asked me; as I glanced around trying to figure out who she was talking about. “He is asking people to give him money,” I responded. Leah thought for a second before adding her usual “why?” And this is where I found myself sitting back in my seat and really thinking about how to answer her. In what capacity do you explain homelessness to a three year old? These are the moments you wish there was some parenting handbook with all the answers. I thought for another few seconds before finally responding with a simple “Well, I’m not really sure, but he doesn’t have enough money so he’s asking others to share with him.” Leah gave a nod and seemed content with her question being answered. Glancing back in the rear view mirror I could see her tiny little face, deep in thought. A few minutes later she spoke again; “Mom? Do we have money?”
This question made me catch my breath because, in that moment, it hit me just how much I wished we had more money. More money to spend on vacations…shopping…buying a big, dream house. But the reality of the situation is that, compared to most, we do have money, and plenty of it. Enough money where I have the choice to leave my job to stay home with the girls, enough money to have a kitchen full of good, organic food, enough money to buy what we need and some of what we simply want.
“Yes,” I said to Leah. We do have money.” I went on to tell her how daddy worked hard for his money, how it’s the money he earns at his job that we use to buy food and new sparkly shoes. And how this was why we pray to God every single night to thank Him for our blessings. And my three year old, confident in a wisdom deeper than my own, understood. She sat there silently before telling me, “Mom, next time we see a homeless man, we should give him our money. Because daddy would work hard for more and this way, the man would have money and then he could pray and thank God for his blessings!”
And that’s when the tears came. As I sat there, trying not to let Leah see me cry, I realized that I need to do a better job showing Leah how we can minister to those in need. I’ll be honest, after years of seeing the homeless, I’ve begun to turn a blind eye. I see them at the stop lights and I feel my frustration start to rise as I frantically try not to make eye contact as I click the car’s automatic locks. And Leah is SEEING all of this. She’s witnessing my actions and filing it away in that little mind of hers. And I’m not saying that I’ll ever happily throw down my windows to hand out money to every person I see at a stop light, but it made me realize that I need to find other ways to show Leah how we can serve so it can hopefully instill a desire to minister in her own heart.
“We should, Leah.” I finally answered. “But until then, we can pray for him, okay?”