If I were to make a laundry list of things I wanted my kids to learn while being brought up in our home, it may go something like this (not exhaustive, and in no particular order): Be kind. Be honest. Love God. Be compassionate towards others. Do the best you can but don’t stress out if you make a mistake. Be respectful. Treat people with dignity because we are all created in the image of God. Help where you can. Watch out for each other. Be aware of the existence of evil but don’t let fear rule your life. Use good judgement. Seek wisdom. Put your dirty clothes in the hamper (ok, that one’s not AS important as the rest).
To me, all of these things are vital for not only my children to learn, but for the peaceful functioning of society.
And yet, I find us constantly falling into that “me first” mindset. It’s not just my kids that do it, although that’s who I notice it in the most. I’m guilty of it also. I want what I want when I want it. When asked to help somewhere, I check my calendar before I check my heart.
Now, don’t get me wrong, when there are demands and offers and requests coming from multiple directions, there are MANY times when you have to say no, even to good things. There is only so much time in each day, and we have to prioritize what there is of it. But that’s a whole different post.
However, when I COULD do something to help someone, but choose not to for my own convenience…or when one of my children whines about the lack of a cell phone when there are children living in our city who don’t have healthy meals each day…that’s where the problem comes in.
Do as I say. And do as I do.
So that’s what we decided. If we want our kids to really be compassionate towards people who are different, if we want our kids to give when it’s easier to receive, if we want our kids to be servers instead of takers, then we have to model that for them. Not just tell them, but show them. Just as we teach table manners by holding our forks properly and taking turns during conversation, we can only teach service by serving.
Enter Mission of Yahweh.
Mission of Yahweh is a homeless shelter for women and children in the Houston, Texas area. It began in 1961 with a former hair stylist who opened her home to women and their children who were in crisis. It has since grown to over 12 buildings, including dormitories, a dining hall, a chapel, a sports field, and child care facilities.
Volunteers and staff offer vocational training classes, counseling, case management assistance, three meals a day, bible study, and so many other things that many of these women need to improve the lives of themselves and their children.
My family and friends were blessed to be able to serve last Saturday in the dining hall. My father and mother in law brought all the food, and we prepared it, served it, and spent time talking to the residents and doing crafts with the kids.
It was three hours out of our Saturday. Three hours where we may have been doing yard work, running errands, or playing inside. Instead, we built relationships. My girls saw that people live differently, look differently and have different experiences than us. They saw children without a home of their own, and they heard them laughing at jokes. They saw them hugging their moms, eating macaroni and asking for extra cookies. They colored pictures together, made necklaces together and ran around outside together.
My girls served. They made salad. They passed out treats. They carried drinks, filled plates and wore hair nets (which is pretty horrifying for a ten year old).
They showed love with their feet and hands, as well as with their mouths.
After the three hours we went back to our house in the suburbs. We went back to our chores and our fun and a party with friends. But we were just a little bit changed.
In the past, as a family, we have made donations to good causes. We have talked about how fortunate we are to have a roof over our heads and a pantry full of food. We have opened our home to others and volunteered at the church or school.
But the experience at Mission of Yahweh showed another side of serving that our kids hadn’t seen before. They saw the faces of people who were benefitting from their time. They heard the “thank you’s” and the “bless you’s”. Now when we talk about helping others around the dinner table, they will have that experience to draw from. They will have those faces and those voices in their minds and hearts.
Is it something we will do every Saturday? No. But we’ll definitely be back.
If you’re interested in getting more information about Mission of Yahweh, what they do and what they value, you can visit them at www.missionofyahweh.org. They are always looking for donations of time, talent and treasures. Go here (http://www.missionofyahweh.org/donations/current-needs/) for a list of current needs.