Miles asked, "Why are you giving that man your money, mom?" I paused for a second, thinking of what to say. I wasn't sure how to explain poverty to the three year old watching from my backseat. I didn't know how to say that I was giving this man money because a turn in his life had resigned him to asking me for it.

There are times when I have to be extra careful, choosing the right words to say. I have to figure out how to describe a person's situation without taking a bite out of their already waning dignity. After all, this person is standing at a stop light; dirty clothes, unshaven face and a backpack. That's it. Little dignity. Little pride. Just eyes darting away from my attempts at contact. A sheepish, "thank you, Miss," after being handed the little spare change I could find after scrounging around, waiting for a green light.

What does a three year old make of that?

"Why are you giving that man your money, mom?"

I hope Miles sees love in this simple gesture. I hope he sees compassion. I hope he carries it with him and has faith in other people. When those around him are wary of what someone might "deserve," I hope he's the voice of love, standing up for his neighbors. I hope he doesn't see pity or duty. I hope he sees grace.

Because the truth is that we all deserve the benefit of the doubt.

I hope he ignores the pressures, voices telling him that these people have brought hardship on themselves. I hope he's more naive than jaded. More sympathetic than pessimistic. More full of mercy than suspicion. I hope he believes that when he gives something, he's helping with a person's next meal or a place to stay. I hope he doesn't worry that he may have made a mistake, only giving a man his next fix.

"Why are you giving that man your money, mom?"

"Because he might be hungry and short on money. It takes money to buy things. So now he might be able to buy something to eat or a place to stay for the night. Did you know people get money from working jobs, like daddy? But sometimes it's hard for people to have a job. They feel sick and it's hard to work when you're sick. So they don't get paid money. Then they don't have any way to pay for food and other things.
I hope if I needed help, someone would help me. I liked helping that man, because he looked like he might need some help."

He was silent, thinking that over. And then it was as if it made perfect sense to him, "Okay, mommy." Words painted with a touch of understanding, acceptance, and maybe even a little peace of mind.
And she rings through my mind and heart again, "We can do no great things, only small things with great love." -Mother Theresa.

Proverbs 21:25 says, "if your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat. If he's thirsty, give him drink."

My enemy? I figure that blows the whole hand-out debate right out of the water. If we are called to serve and give to an enemy, why wouldn't we serve a stranger, no matter what the assumption? I really hope my boys ask that question one day. And I hope they have the confidence to give to others, "deserving," or not.

13 clicked right here to comment:

Kimberly said...

Amen. I hope I set that example for my children as well.

Kelly @ Love Well said...

This is very wise, Heather. I ended up in a similar situation late last spring. We gave a man some money on the ramp near our home. I explained the giving to Natalie in much the same manor. I pray with such fervency that her heart would understand the meaning of grace and God's tenderness for the least of these.

Kristen said...

What a great response!

happygeek said...

What a great example to your son. Thought provoking post.

charrette said...

"There are times when I have to be extra careful, choosing the right words to say. I have to figure out how to describe a person's situation without taking a bite out of their already waning dignity." If everyone exercised that kind of careful judgment, the world would be a better place.

And I love the scripture you quoted, removing any room for judgment in the discussion.

Beautiful thoughts here.

a Tonggu Momma said...

The Scripture you chose really took away any arguments. I pray we all teach our children to reach out with compassion. The world needs a little more kindness.

Melanie J said...

I hope that by the end of my life, I can develop the giving spirit my son was born with. From the very youngest age, he has shown a compassion for the less fortunate that I learn from regularly and it helps me to understand God's admonition to become as a little child.

The Mama's said...

I love the line about all of us deserving the benefit of the doubt. I often will see someone in that situation and think, "What if that was my child someday." Because it certainly is SOMEONE's child.

What a beautiful world this would be if could all give each other the benefit of the doubt. No judging, no speculation. Just love and unspoken understanding.

Love this! Thank you....


PsychMamma said...

Wonderful post and a wonderfully worded lesson for Miles. Thanks for sharing your story!

Tootsie Farklepants said...

I think your response was exactly perfect!

MoziEsmé said...

Great answer!

One of my parenting goals this year is to better model generosity and philanthropy and service. I want to do intentional acts of kindness with my baby girl - I think it's one of the best gifts I could pass on to her.

GrumpyAngel said...

What a great teaching moment for your son. And for me because you shared it here on your blog. Generosity without judgment --- I never saw this message from this scripture before. Now I do. I'm grateful for it. Thank you.

Elle said...

beautiful post. beautiful.

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