Bronson pointed at our fridge. We have a few photos of people we don’t really know, photos of children we sponsor and nameless photos of children who represent other issues/organizations we care about.
“So…” he says, “Who are these kids? Are they kids without food and shoes and homes and water?”
My first thought was shock: lately, I find it difficult to believe that he hears anything I say to him. My second thought was an internal head shake. I’m not communicating the whole picture.
I’ve been reading and pondering issues raised in books like When Helping Hurts and Compassion, Justice and the Christian Life. These books discuss the ways we seek to serve people. They raise and change the standards. Pitying isn’t praised. Dignity is key.
At the heart of social justice issues lies the truth that each and every person – regardless of age, race, gender and socioeconomic status – bears the image of God; and therefore, we each have something to offer. No one person is 100% in need, and no one person is 100% the giver.
While I’ve been very intentionally trying to communicate to my children that compassion, service and generosity are important tenants of life, faith and our family, I failed to also teach them that people are not merely defined by their needs. And conversely, that while we have a warm home, nice clothes and food on our table at least three times a day, we are not without need. Not even close.
This is the gospel, the good news, that none of us are defined by our need, but by what God chooses to see in us – the overlaying of Christ, the tilling of gifts, the fruition of his Spirit.
When Bronson began this same conversation again later that day during dinner, Ryan and I both explained that yes, these children are lacking some things that we want to help them with, things that we have been very blessed with. But we quickly added that they are wonderful children – with evident joy and smiles, gifts and abilities.
They are in need, but they are not altogether different from us.