One of the most important things I can do for my children is to teach them to love and care for everyone. I want them to realize that it is pure luck that they were born into a stable, wealthy (compared to the rest of the world), safe home. They did nothing to deserve this, and they are no better than anyone else. No matter how much or how little we have, we are called to share our time, talent, and money to honor God and love our neighbor.
Some months I've been able to donate a lot more time and money, other months have been as simple as baking cookies for the local fire department. Working with the youth group has motivated me to seek a variety of service projects. During the winter months I like to cook a meal for Room in the Inn, a local homeless ministry. I normally sign the youth group up for any dinner slots, and I lead the teens in cooking dinner. Yesterday the coordinator shared a last minute need for dinner. There are a lot of things I cannot do because of timing and childcare restraints, but I can cook dinner. I quickly volunteered. Within a few hours I had planned a meal and purchased the groceries.
There are many details involved when cooking dinner for 30 people. Since I was going to be alone (i.e. without youth group) I knew I needed a recipe that would be easy to multiply and require little prep work. I decided on a huge batch of taco soup with corn chips, cheese, Cesar salad, and pound cake and strawberries for dessert. I managed to purchase everything for less than $2 per person. This morning I cooked 5 lbs of ground beef and baked a pound cake.
I was surprised, nervous, and excited when Jackson asked if he could accompany me to church and cook dinner. I was hesitant, but he won me over when he said, "I care about the people, too." We headed out in freezing rain and made it safely to the church. Keep in mind, Jackson has never been to this church. (Our church cannot host because we don't have showers. We partner with another church that has better facilities.) Jackson helped as best he could by emptying cans of beans into a large stock pot, opening bags of salad, putting cheese in a bowl, etc.
|The only picture I took the entire evening|
Jackson held hands and prayed with the large group. When it came time to serve the food, he stood right beside me and talked to dozens of strangers. I warned him before hand that we would be the last people to eat. Jackson was initially upset by this but I explained that guests are always served first. By the time everyone had been served, there was only one space at a table left. Jackson sat without me at a table with a homeless family and one other volunteer. This was HUGE for my little introvert. Thankfully he was at a table with two older boys (elementary aged) and they talked about super heroes the whole time.
All was going so well. I was so very proud of Jackson for stepping outside of his comfort zone and interacting with people he doesn't normally have the opportunity to interact with. People commented about how cute he was, asked him questions, etc. I was a proud mom.
Then, someone flipped the crazy switch. A volunteer asked to take Jackson's picture for something do with grant funding. He agreed to do so and we followed her into the other room. I guess he got nervous and changed his mind. Instead of saying no, he literally took off running in the opposite direction through the double doors. He yelled, "I hate this place. I hate these people. I want to go home. Give me my toy. I wanted to eat cake." So much for my grateful, compassionate, patient son! I had to carry him out to the car while he cried hysterically.
I recognize that everything was too much for him and he reached his breaking point. We talked through our feelings and he calmed down. I'm disappointed in how the evening ended, but thankful that he took initiative and wanted to make a difference.
Tonight was a baby step towards teaching compassion and showing love for others. I don't know when I'll take Jackson with me to another volunteer event, but he'll have plenty more opportunities when he's ready.