Less Than Nothing

Service and compassion for the poor“Mom..we have NOTHING to eat in the house!”

This familiar refrain, that can be heard echoing throughout our homes, never ceases to annoy us as moms who know better. Yet, if we take a moment to consider, what we are truly bothered by is the lack of understanding of what real need looks like by our children. Need that has no instant fill, and want not for the frosting on the cake but for the cake itself and for the person caring enough to bake it. And gratitude, found in time spent with those you love and an awareness that tomorrow isn’t a guarantee.

Growing up, there wasn’t always the food I wanted but we always had food and plenty of it. And my mother had instilled in me that service wasn’t simply an activity to try on, but more of a lifestyle. So I became used to “neighbors” coming to our door, sitting at our table and passing down clothing and toys that were no longer needed. This perspective, to see others as myself, has remained despite any change in circumstance or surroundings. And yet, I have to say that God still had much to teach me during my recent mission trip to Haiti.

His tear-brimmed eyes were so striking that they seemingly took up the most of his small round face. And behind them was a haunting loneliness and hunger, the depth of which far surpassed any that I had encountered before. Unlike other huts visited, no smile came forth , rather an unknowing and apprehension of the kindness shown. Today we were there, but tomorrow well, the isolation and uncertainty would return.

Coming home from Haiti then, to the laments of my own children desiring more ample food choices, was almost too much to bear. “You have so much, and yet you only can see what you lack!”, the words spilling out almost uncontrollably. “But Mom, would you stop treating us as if we are orphans from Haiti!”, my youngest responded. This is when I realized they couldn’t fully understand what they had never seen or experienced. Instead of criticizing them, I decided that now was the perfect time to show them. With each photo a story, and behind each story a teachable moment and a commitment to foster mission in their lives.

Although there is much that is difficult to translate with just a picture, they began to ask questions about the people that I encountered. As well as, questions as to the problems that have caused the systematic poverty and unrest that have so embroiled this island nation. “Mom, how can we really help if tomorrow things will return back to where they were or worse? ” Accompanying these words, were a felt culpability and contrition along with a desire to solve a seemingly endless problem. As a mom, I want to encourage  and empower them to be part of the change wherever they are.  Instantly, I recalled the passage from Deuteronomy 15:11  and Proverbs 31:8-9 which not only acknowledges the longevity of poverty but also our responsibility to care for the poor and work for change.  Isaiah and Paul to the Romans take it a bit further stating that we must:
“Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow”.  Isaiah 1:17
All the while…
“Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.” Romans 12:11-13

This is not an easy request and yet old and new testament alike call us to accountability on our care and compassion for those in need. So it isn’t that being in a position of authority or wealth is inherently wrong, rather it is what we choose to do with that wealth and power that is the important distinction. In fact, if we allow God to use or gifts for his good then those gifts do not end with us but are endlessly multiplied.

Pray: Lord, I come to you today, asking for a servant’s heart. Please show me the ways in which I can best serve and give to those in need, and help me to be willing become less attached to the created things of this world and more to your beautiful creation within it. And, if it pleases you Lord, let me teach my children to do the same.

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