“So you got into a fight with several boys on the bus….What happened?” the principal asked. The student responded, “When they were making fun of me and my clothes, that was fine. But then they started making fun of my sister and I couldn’t help myself anymore.”
The outburst earned the young man a couple days of in-school suspension as well as the attention and compassion of the middle school principal. And based on previous history with the principal, our family would soon get involved.
For some time now my wife and I have wanted to change the focus of the Christmas season from getting a whole bunch of stuff that we don’t need to serving others that are truly in need. Instead of seeing our children turn glassy-eyed thinking about presents they may receive, we feel compelled to teach them to serve others. So a few weeks ago I began a conversation with my extended family about changing the family tradition. Though I can’t say there weren’t any bumps along the way, I have been so encouraged to see how we are, as a family, now focusing our energies on blessing others that are in need. Great need.
Just to paint the picture a little, the dad recently lost his job as a garbage collector. The mom spends most of her time in bed on strong medication with a chronic disease. The two kids who are still living in the home have learning disabilities and are picked on at school for any reason including clothing that is out of style. From preliminary conversations with the family, we learned that food was also a need.
This past week we were able to go with my parents and my immediate family to take a Thanksgiving meal and a bunch of groceries to the family along with some job applications where we have family history. While we were standing there talking, the kids were unloading the bags. Immediately, the boy washed an apple and started eating it while his sister began to peel an orange. Both commented about how good it was to have fruit. These were the very apples and oranges that our kids had picked out at the store just a couple hours prior.
After Thanksgiving, we met as an extended family to plan what we would do for this other family for Christmas, for job, and more. We really were seeking to answer the question how can we be the image of Christ to them. After that we went to different stores and shopped for various things for the family. With my wife and kids, we immediately started shopping for the young girl in the family. My children were delighted to pick gifts to give to this girl that they had already met. They wanted to pick clothes that would help her be warm…that she would really like…that would reduce some of the peer scrutiny for the future.
I think we are all going to learn more about the sacrifice of Jesus this Christmas than so many in the past. I am not certain today of all of the thoughts my daughters are having about building this relationship and being a blessing to others. They are enthusiastically working on a play that will tell the Christmas story as we share a meal together around Christmas. They are learning so much more through this hands-on approach than I could ever teach them in a countless number of lectures. This is obedience for us. It is pragmatic discipleship for them. It is a blessing for us all.
After a short time shopping we met back as an extended family at Chik-fil-A. While we were sharing ideas and showing what we had purchased, one of the employees came up and greeted my brother. We learned that their children went to school together. Upon hearing of the family’s need, he brought us an application and gift cards for the whole family to be the store’s guest for a chicken sandwich meal (woohoo for the #1 combo!). We were traveling back home when my parents called to share that the family was really appreciative. The dad was excited to be able to eat at Chik-fil-A for the first time in his life. My girls could not believe that there was a grown man in the U.S. that had never eaten at their favorite restaurant.
The discipleship continues….