Category Archives: things kids teach me

finish well.

Yesterday I had a heart-to-heart with one of my favorite 3rd graders who had just thrown a backpack at a woman holding a baby carrier.  In her defense, she just has really poor aim, but I felt it was something I should probably address anyway.  I walked away from the conversation feeling like she had a pretty good grasp of the situation, and that I had made it clear that throwing things isn’t the best idea.

I’m not sure when I’ll start consciously remembering how wrong I often am about these things.

This afternoon, I turned around to see the same kid throwing a cup full of something (cereal? peanut butter? It remains unclear.) at the wall of the snack area, allegedly trying to hit the garbage can but instead coming within centimeters of hitting another child.

When confronted, she looked at me with this stare that clearly conveyed that she was sure I was the crazy one, that throwing the cup was actually completely normal behavior.  We then had the exact same conversation we’d had the day before, with the exception of a more immediate consequence–she was treated to a lesson in sweeping and taking care of the Club (which, come to think of it, she really should have paid me for…it was a great lesson.).

Yet, instead of doing the easy thing by spending five minutes sweeping up the mess that she herself had made, she decided instead to tell me how unfair the situation was and how she, in fact, wasn’t going to help at all because it wasn’t her responsibility, someone else is paid to clean up those kinds of messes.

And I thought, oh good. I’m being taught a lesson right now.  I need to pay attention.

Because as much as I hate to admit it, I totally understood where she was coming from.  I would MUCH rather let someone else clean up the messes that I’ve left behind.  In the moment, it is significantly easier to begin something and walk away, to leave it for someone else to fix and deal with.  The important part of that statement is, of course, in the moment.  I don’t think I’ve ever looked back at a scenario that I left intentionally terrible and thought, “wow, I’m so proud of how I didn’t finish that, of how I had the worst attitude ever while walking away.”

Finishing well is important.

Whether that means revisiting a situation or conversation that there’s still hope for or following through wholeheartedly with a project that we aren’t super excited about anymore, seeing things through to the end is an important skill to have.

Think about it:  If we only tried to perform to the best of our abilities in things that we absolutely one hundred percent were excited about, a lot of things would get left undone.  And who would do all of the other things that we deemed unimportant or unnecessary?

At some point in time, we need to start living life with the realization that we have a responsibility to uphold–those messes that we’re leaving for other people?  They’re ours, and we need to either not make the mess in the first place (a largely unrealistic expectation) or be willing to pick up a broom and get work done.




a future hope.

Last week, I walked out of my apartment to the sound of children yelling.  As I made my way down the stairs, they saw me coming and instantly ran over to where I was.  They flooded the stairway, making it nearly impossible for me to finish my descent.  All of them wanted to get as close to me as they could, and I finally had to sit down on a step so I didn’t fall the rest of the way (I’m really easy to knock over, as it turns out…poor balance and all that).

At dinner that same day, I sat across the table from Hope.  She looked up at me with her giant brown eyes and chocolate-smeared cheeks (There is always an abundance of cake.  At every meal, it seems like) and asked if I would pick her up.  She doesn’t speak very much English, so her version of asking was more of a gesture than anything else.  At 3 years old, she already knows exactly how to get what she wants.  It’s also helpful that she’s adorable.  I had carried her to dinner the night before, and she became instantly obsessed with seeing how high I could lift her into the air.  Let’s just say that my arms are going to be incredibly toned by the time she and her family move out.

And then Matthew, also 3, came hobbling over to me in the parking lot later that night, crying because his tiny toes were bleeding.  The boy walks barefoot everywhere, so I was more surprised that it hadn’t happened earlier than anything else.  I sat him in a chair and cleaned his foot carefully while he told me I was the best doctor.  I let him choose a band-aid (We only have one kind, so this was kind of a trick) and he watched me intently as I wrapped it around his injury.

If only I could do more than that.

He will get hurt again, his brave plans will be thwarted, he will fall and be disappointed.

She will want to be picked up and someone will tell her that they don’t have time to stop for her, she will face a crisis through which she’ll need to be carried and she won’t know what to do.

These children–my beautiful, crazy, extraordinary survivors–will run out of steam and energy; they will be told by the world that they won’t reach their dreams, that they won’t accomplish anything, and so they will give up.  They will stop yelling and running and instead live subdued ordinary lives.

So today I’m thankful that the responsibility doesn’t fall on my shoulders alone.

Sure, I get them for a little bit, and in that time I will do what is needed to let them know that they’re important and valuable and worth fighting for.

But they will leave.  Their families will find a place to call home, and they will be gone.  They will move on and move out, and a new group of tiny adventurers will flood the Mission.  For the ones that leave, it is crucial to remember that they are in God’s hands.  He does a way better job of caring for them than anyone else will ever be able to; His love doesn’t run out.  He has incredible plans, and while I wish that I could walk alongside each and every one of them to see what He has in store for their lives, I know that’s not going to happen.

Instead, I’ll continue to pray that they recognize that the small amount of patience and grace that I show them pales in comparison to how loved they are by their Father, and I’ll hold onto the hope that maybe I’ll get to see them again one day.

*names were changed

following blindly.

As I may have mentioned before (or maybe I just think about it a lot), I have mixed emotions when it comes to having kids here at the Mission.

I love when they crawl up onto my lap during chapel, I love seeing them run across the parking lot just so jazzed about everything, I even love having to tell them for the hundredth time to stop playing on the stairs.

They draw me pictures of their families, they tell me about everything that’s happening, they pretend like their hands are spiders to attempt to creep me out (it totally works.  every time.), they remind me to not take things too seriously.

When there are kids here, sticks become swords or lightsabers, the cracks in our parking lot become the only safe places to walk so we’re not swallowed up by lava, and everything just gets so much more exciting.

I love them.

At the same time, if they’re here, it means that they’re homeless.  It means that in their short lives, they have already known displacement and confusion and fear about the future.

It means they don’t have their own bed with Spiderman sheets or a kitchen table to sit around or a place to invite their friends to come hang out.  It means they stand in line for meals and attempt to do their homework in a room filled with everything their family owns.

When there are kids here, there is a heightened need to make this as safe a place as possible, it becomes even more obvious that one person’s choices can so easily affect others, and it seems as though reality sets in hard.

But these kids are survivors.

Through them, I am learning what it means to fully trust the Lord.  These kids have been through a lot, but they still believe that their parents want what’s best for them.  In some cases, they’re absolutely right.  In others, the parents don’t actually want that, or they do but they have no idea how to go about providing for or supporting their children.

Whatever the situation, most of these kids trust that this time will be the time that their moms or dads get it right.  They move forward blindly, recognizing that, for now, someone else is in charge of their life.  And they trust that whoever is leading will make the right decision.

The obvious difference here is that the Lord does, in fact, always make the right decision with regards to our lives.  Whether or not we think that’s true at the time, it always eventually becomes clear that what He thought was best was actually way better than what we were thinking.

And so, I am realizing that this blind trust that these kids have been modeling for me is what is necessary to follow Jesus.  He doesn’t always give us the plan ahead of time, he simply asks us to follow.

Stepping out in faith means we don’t always see where our feet are going.