When my boys were 5 and 8 years old, they had a fascination with homeless people in our community. Well, I call it a fascination and my wife would call it a compassion for their plight. On the South end of town, where two rivers converge, is a park the kids called the “train park”. Yes, there is a train for them to play in and around, but moreover, this is the park where the homeless convene. Here is what I learned from my boys:
#1. Show Mercy
Mercy is a word I don’t use much in my everyday vernacular. It loosely means showing compassion to relieve suffering. Jess, my eldest, wants to share his french fries with a homeless woman passing by. I learned that I don’t have to provide money, but maybe just a hot meal. My children are always willing to share.
#2. Show Kindness
I am always amazed at what my kids teach me. Kindness is not in my nature, but I am learning to be kind. Micah, my youngest, taught me kindness though his example. A homeless man accidently dumped his shopping cart with all of its contents spilling out. Micah was quick to help him gather his things together and return them to the cart. I stood idly by, amazed and grieved at the battle inside myself that I was too embarrassed to lend a helping hand, and so proud that my 5 year old pitched in to help and be an example to his dad.
#3. Listen to Their Story
Jess has the gift of listening. You can find him on a park bench in deep conversation with a homeless person learning about his life. He tells me they all have a story, and want their voice to heard. I have found myself walking by the homeless, with my head down, never wanting to have eye contact, and passing by quickly. However, my son reminds me, they are people too. They have a voice to be heard, feelings to be validated, and a story to tell. Now I am quick with a smile, a hello, and a willingness to have a conversation.
Our kids can teach us as we teach them. Thank you, boys, for these important life lessons. I hope you can learn as much from your kids I as I have learned from mine! They are continually teaching me about mercy, love and kindness.