I still remember the way the blinds blocked the windows in the sanctuary, closing out the world to focus my attention. I remember the sounds of the carousel slide projector jamming, forcing me to stare into the eyes of some woman and child from a faraway land. I remember the way my emotions surged, telling me these people mattered. They mattered to me, in a way I still don’t fully understand.
I loved when missionaries visited our church.
I would stare at their flannel board presentations set up on the table. I would hold toys and coins and scarves from wherever they were furloughed from. I would study the world map on the wall stabbed with push pins showing their scattered locations. In one Sunday School class, we supported the Peppers. I sometimes still think of them when I’m grabbing a three-pack – orange, yellow, red – for kabobs. I remember the globe penny bank where I deposited dimes and nickels. I remember a woman visiting from the Philippines. She taught me, with a smile, to sneeze into my sleeve.
I don’t know why I remember these things, other than my memory bonding to moments heightened by strong emotion. Through missionaries I grew to love the people in the world. Through missionaries my wanderlust cemented in my being. Early on, I wanted to travel for travel’s sake. I wanted to travel for people’s sake. I wanted to travel for Christ’s sake.
My parents are generous people. They taught me by their actions, their words, their prayers, their money that we are to be generous with what we have – no matter how much or how little.
I often feel confused by my strong desire to serve, to go. I’ve listened to countless people casually hope God doesn’t call them to Africa or something, like that’s obviously how everyone feels. I wonder why. I’d go. In a heartbeat. I’d go anywhere. I hoped God wouldn’t call me to normal, mundane, suburban life.
I hoped God wouldn’t call me to my current situation.
But I guess he has.
This still confuses me greatly.
A few months ago I talked to a friend who had to leave the Peace Corps shortly after joining. She told me she’s slowly realizing that raising a family and living a “normal” life and treating people with dignity in the here and now is far more important than she previously realized. The world needs men who respect women. The world needs families who love each other, who make each other better. The world needs people who don’t take advantage of the downtrodden, who don’t despise them.
The world needs people living in my current situation.
This still confuses me greatly.
But I want to raise men who respect women, who will protect women. I want to be a family who loves each other and others and opens our home with lavish generosity. I want to help people here and now to see the people in need in our small corner of the world, to see them as bearing the image of God, deserving respect and relationship, not just checks or coins.
For now, I’ll be blogging about my feeble attempts to raise kids who are globally and locally engaged, about kids whose eyes are being opened and hearts are being kept tender. Kids are not callous to people, to difficulties, to disasters. Not yet.
The scariest part of Finding Nemo for my son isn’t the sharks or the fish-eating whale or when Nemo’s out of water; it’s when Nemo’s dad and Nemo are yelling for each other, terrified of separating, of losing each other.
Compassion doesn’t need to be taught. It needs to be fostered.
I have a two-and-a-half-year old and a nine month old. They’re very young. Some could say I’m being pushy or expecting too much to try to teach my children anything even mildly difficult or dark about the world. Some could say I should keep them as innocent as I can, while I can. Some could say they can’t understand anyway.
They have good points, and God knows I want wisdom to teach them and show them just the right amount, at the right time.
But I don’t wait to teach my sons numbers until they’re capable of long division. I don’t wait to teach my sons letters until they’re writing five paragraph essays. I don’t wait to teach my sons to throw until they’re trying to pitch in the world series. I don’t wait to teach them Bible stories until they can handle deep theological discussions.
These early years are filled with foundational moments. I want compassion, awareness and engagement to be at the foundation of their lives.
So I guess I better get tilling.
I certainly don’t know how to do this. I’ve seen a few good ideas, had a few interesting conversations with my two-year-old. I think this would be easier to do if we relocated our push-pin to a place of discomfort. But we’re not. So here, in the comfort of modern American life, I’m seeking to raise kids who care.