(Our newest canvas. Leo's handprints; Aidan painted the heart himself; Pax's footprints. I saw a similar idea on Pinterest, but adapted it somewhat.... it is the perfect addition to our family room, serving as a daily reminder; the following post is adapted from a stewardship talk I gave some months ago.)
About two years ago, we chose a family bible verse – our motto, if you will. It comes from Micah: Do Justice, Love Kindness, Walk Humbly with your God. With three very active young boys, choosing a bible verse packed with verbs – do; love; walk – seemed to go hand-in-hand with their boundless energy. And yet the call-to-action: justice; kindness; humility; and with God – supports the most essential foundations upon which we are working to grow our family.
We are called to do justice. In September 2010, a death row inmate named Teresa Lewis was awaiting execution in the nearby women’s prison. While I am unconditionally opposed to capital punishment, the circumstances of her case were especially appalling to me. My call was clear: Do Justice. On the day of her execution, I, along with two of my children, stood outside the courthouse in protest. We were there for Teresa, to bear witness to her life, and to her terrible death sentence; to join others, in solidarity, against the injustice of her execution. While I protected my kids from the “what” of our protest, I was clear in the why. We were there to stand up for a woman who couldn’t stand up for herself. We heeded the call; we stood up for justice. [I blogged about it, here.]
We are called to love kindness. Learning how to love kindness requires compassion, and compassion often requires action. In October, our local food bank was all but depleted. The cry for help was desperate, and I’m proud to say that our whole community rallied and that the supply is gradually being replaced. I’m proud of the small kindness our children made to that end. After a brief explanation of the desperate need for food for our hungry neighbors, each boy eagerly withdrew some money from his piggy bank, contributing funds to what Jeff and I had already put aside from our own food budget. Together, we headed to the grocery store. Although we’ve shopped together countless times before, it was different this time. No one asked if we could buy more ice cream, or if they could get a treat at the checkout. Everyone was intent on filling our cart – for our hungry neighbors. Together, we delivered the food to the pantry, and later, over dinner, we gave thanks that a few more bellies would be filled that night.
This past weekend, for the second year in a row, our family planned, prepared, and served dinner to the homeless women who are staying as guests in our church's fellowship hall for two weeks. Many of the area churches collaborate each winter to provide food, shelter, and warmth during the long winter months to the the homeless men and women in our community. Despite the unseasonably warm weather - which typically results in fewer guests - we still served 12 homeless women. I took the kids with me to shop for the food we needed to prepare our meal, and while I cooked, Jeff worked with the kids on decorating a placemat for each of our guests to enjoy during her meal. Another family joined us in serving dinner, and together, our 5 young boys led the grace - Johnny Appleseed - before helping get drinks, set the table, clean up spills, and chat with the women. I felt proud of our two young families, pleased with the results of our efforts - yet my heart felt heavy in leaving. Heavy from wishing and wanting to do more. Feeling too lucky, too blessed, to have a home. Envisioning myself in each of their shoes, I was humbled.
We must walk humbly. To me, walking humbly is perhaps the most important, that we are humble in how we serve. And so I was torn, really, about whether or not to write about our service. But then I decided that sharing and remaining humble are not mutually exclusive. My hope is that in sharing our small acts of justice and kindness, I might inspire others to do the same. That another family might think, hey, we really could include the kids in this - they're not too young! They can handle it. It's important. And I know it isn't much - our protest; our food bank contribution; our dinner; other small acts. I know I can do more, that I should do more, that I need to do more - and that knowledge alone grounds me, fills me with humility of what is not yet done, what I have failed to do. And that knowledge fills me anew with the desire to do justice, to love kindness, to walk humbly with God.