"I didn't make that mess. It was the girls." His hands are shoved deep into pockets and his face brims with the unfairness of it all. "Why should I have to pick it up?"
It's Saturday and I saw it, on the walk back from my moms. That yard. That place where the neighbor kids flock first thing after school and are sent home just before dark. That beat down bit of dirt beneath the swings where little feet trample day in and day out. The tree fort where girls whisper secrets and play pretend, where boys draw treasure maps and play cards. The sand box made by Uncle Jy when he was just a high school kid, nailing together boards for his sister's babies. It's a good place for kids - a safe place. A place I don't mind looking like it's reigned by big imaginations in small bodies...but even I have my limit. The remnants of yesterday's tea party rain soaked on the picnic table. Plastic icy pop sleeves littering the lawn. Sand buckets full of water, army men marching through weeds. Chaos, everywhere.
I start in my lecture about stewardship. His clenched jaw tells me more than his eyes, that his thoughts are elsewhere. It's.not.fair. is written across his face.
We get it picked up, the kids and I. The girls help, too. There is grumbling. And lecturing. And I spend another night wondering how, just how, to raise good stewards. Helpers. It doesn't happen over night, that's for sure, and my lectures seem to make attitudes worse.
I remember the kids of a friend of mine from our homeschool co op. I was struck when, between classes, her children would come find her, check in and ask, "Is there anything you need? Can I help?" Boys and girls alike, 6, 8, 10, 14 years old. Searching out their mother and asking if she needed anything. It took my breath away then. It still strikes me now. It's not about making slaves of your children. It is about raising helpers, growing people who are ready and willing to be of service to others. It is about selflessness and love. It's about being a blessing.
At first, I add it to job lists. There, right at the end, after emptying trash and brushing teeth, making beds and bringing down laundry, I write it on each one: Ask how you can help.
That first grader, the one always begging for more school, she's done first, as usual. She comes up and asks what this new note on her list is all about. I pull her onto my lap and tell her about helpers, the people who give and ask nothing in return, and point straight back to Jesus, spreading His love like wildfire. And I tell her that she can be a person who sets the world on fire with love and grace. With just a few little words. "How can I help?"
She nods and those dimples nudge deep in her cheeks. "So Mama, how can I help?"
She sets up a train track for Peter. He's delighted, and it spreads right back to her. She comes to find me, in the kitchen, and wraps her arms around my waist. "It's true, Mom. I can feel the light. Right here." Her hand on her heart, she realizes that being the blessing means a double portion of joy.
It's when you discover the joy in being the blessing that you unlock the potential to show the world the source. One by one the kids come to me and ask to help. It's not habit for them, yet, but I hope it will be. In raising them to be helpers, I'm sending 6 people into the world to be a blessing to others. Making the world a better place, one person at a time.
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