Monday, October 18, 2010

challenged by a 3-year-old

The other day, my 3-year-old son (although he will quickly correct me and say he's "free-and-a-half") and I were driving home from grocery shopping in a nearby town. I saw a homeless man standing on the side of the road with a sign, and had a "homeless kit" in the back seat. E had been climbing over it for weeks when getting in and out of the car, and asking about it. It's a Ziploc bag with non-perishable food and a pair of socks, made by our meeting so that we can have them in our cars to hand out when we see people who need them. I'd explained this to E, that some people don't have homes or places to go to sleep at night, don't have money for food, etc. (How to make a homeless kit: you can find instructions here, although that's more of a hygiene kit. Our meeting made ones with mostly food items--hopefully relatively healthy like peanut butter crackers, a can of tuna, energy bar, water bottle and stuff like that.)

So on this day, I saw this man and decided to pull over to hand him the homeless kit. I did so with E sitting in his car seat in the back. It was about 14 miles to get home from there, and every few miles my son kept asking, "Where is he?"

"Who?" I asked.

"The man we gave the bag to."

I explained that he was probably still back on the side of the road where we'd seen him, but now he had some food and socks.

"But, what else are we going to do, Mom?"

Several times we repeated this conversation, and each time he'd ask, "But what else are we going to do?" I explained different things each time--we did what we could do. We can't give him a place to live, but at least we can help a little bit. We don't have a lot ourselves, but what we have we can share. We can support groups who are helping people without homes have a place to stay, and we can support laws that make it possible for people to stay in their homes and jobs.

"But, what else are we going to do, Mom?"

We got into a humorous conversation when I asked him, "What do you think we would do if we didn't have any money and couldn't buy food or pay for our house?" He said, "We'd go to the bank and get some money." I explained about banks, that you have to put money in if you want to be able to get money out. He told me that he's going to be rich so he doesn't have to worry about that. (I didn't even know he knew what it meant to be rich!) I said, "OK, that's great if you're rich and you don't have to worry about money. But if you're rich, make sure you help out people who don't have enough, alright?" "Alright," he agreed.

And then he said something possibly even more insightful. I said that even though we don't have a lot, we have enough to share, and that if everyone shares, then everyone is OK. If everyone helps out, everyone has enough. He said, "But everyone doesn't help."

How's that for a challenge? At age three, he watched as all the other cars drove past the man by the side of the road. He saw that we gave him something, but that he was still back there on the side of the road while we were going home with our groceries. He could understand that if everyone did something to help, there would be enough--but that we weren't all doing all we could.

"But, what else are we going to do?"


Marshall Massey (Iowa YM [C]) said...


Anonymous said...

LOVE this post, Cherice!

This is one of my favorite parts of parenting... their constant reminding that they look to us to make sense of the world, and the ways in which that makes us want so much to "live up."

Anonymous said...

This is astoundingly thought-provoking. I wish we all had E's insights, and would respond to them.

Gr. Ralph