Ever saw a baby in one of those carriers that you wear, either sleeping soundly or bouncing around on mom or dad with joy? They are becoming more common, and why not, who wouldn’t want to carry their baby hands free?! I wore our first child in it mostly hiking...but the second one...I wore it everywhere. She LOVED it because she spent enough time in it to feel comfortable and happy...at the store, church, cleaning house...you name it.
I sort of hope the same thing for my children and their future with helping others....that they do it so often that it’s... comfortable... and more importantly, that they love it. This is part of why I bring them with me on any volunteer time that I can, if it is safe to have children. Mind you... I said safe, not easy. So this means I can’t bring them to cook in a soup kitchen because my now 4 year old would be around knives and hot stoves etc. and they have guidelines they have to follow that mean children can’t be present.
However, making care packages for those experiencing homelessness, playing with the other children there to eat while they are serving a meal, drawing cards for a nursing home, handing out granola bars and needed items to those experiencing homelessness downtown, letters to veterans, packing shoeboxes and backpacks for children in poverty and more... that can be done together, and we do it. It’s safe (and I believe an important part of their development), but it isn’t easy.
I point this out because I think sometimes we limit our children, myself included. We think things are either unsafe, or inappropriate, or just not something a small child should be doing or is even capable of doing for that matter. However, I would argue that this is not true when it comes to volunteering. My son is now 4, and he LOVES to go. It’s something he has always done... and maybe it is just the way God made him... but this child is so in tune to others feelings and needs for his age. My daughter, for now, bounces around happily in that carrier I mentioned, but my vision is that this too will be what develops within her.
From a very early age my son has been around all different people with different stories to tell and different ways of living life. He is seeing the world outside of our home. He sees sometimes kids who live with grandma, sometimes grown ups that aren’t living in a home right now, and sometimes people who don’t get a meal everyday. People we serve with and serve to sometimes look different, talk different, and view the world differently than we do. He sees all of this and you know what he is learning? Not everyone is the same. Not everyone’s experiences are the same. But all people deserve love and kindness.
Now, let me get to that idea in the back of your head.... but tantrums. But diaper changes. But it’s exhausting. But they ask uncomfortable questions. But they are too small to know this hard stuff.
But they will learn this hard stuff sooner or later, and right now, you get to talk to them about it and frame it in the way Jesus would. You get to make it age appropriate, but real. You get to shape the way that they see the world, so that maybe someday when they go out into it on their own...they do it with a gentle heart. A loving heart. A giving heart. It’s more than a few notebooks in a backpack you are dropping off for another student. It’s more than a granola bar to a stranger. It’s about leaving a legacy. It’s about lifting others up. It’s about creating a generational impact and a ripple effect that is bigger than you and me.
So, I’ll take a little bit of uncomfortable. I’ll take an occasional meltdown serving at the lunch program(I so know they feel big when we are in them...oh the times I’ve also wanted to cry in the car with my toddler on the way home from a major meltdown). But still, I’ll take all of that, because the good always is bigger. Love and Jesus and helping one another is always, always, always bigger.