Somewhere in unknown Kansas, we stopped to stock up on groceries and have a quick lunch in the camper. It was while we were eating our sandwiches that Peter saw a man in the parking lot, sitting against a light pole.
We were unloading our groceries almost an hour later when Peter noticed the man was still there in the same spot. Without a word, he disappeared and returned with the man, asking him if he needed some food. The kids and I scurried around, tossing out chips and apples and granola bars. We made him a sandwich and gave him some water.
We listened to his story of riding his bike from Georgia to Wyoming and how he was now headed back south. Along the way, his original bike had fallen to pieces. I noticed he wasn’t wearing shoes.
We don’t always have the eyes to see people for who they are when our lives are too caught up in our own plans. We miss it so easily because we’re being too efficient or we’re too scared. Our minds are occupied with the task at hand and the ten tasks we must scurry to finish. But Jesus used a barefooted man in a Wal-Mart parking lot to teach us that being compassionate is a sweetest of gifts. We just had to slow down enough to see it.
I watched the kids listen to his stories and I was so thankful for a husband who saw a need and responded. I was reminded of what I’ve said before: It has to be in us before it will be in our kids. The best teaching moments come to us when we don’t have a chance to prepare— they’re our everyday acts of obedience.
We, as parents, must take the time to cultivate compassion in our own lives so it will leak into the lives of our kids. Not because there’s an obligation, but because we are called to genuinely care about others.
A few days after we met Paul in the Kansas parking lot, one of my kids took some money and bought something extravagant for the little boy we sponsor in Haiti. I wish I could tell you the whole story, but it isn’t my story to tell. So you just have to take my word for it— our kids may look like they don’t care about others. They may seem like they’re self-absorbed, but as we model Christ’s love, they will develop compassion.
There are countless deep needs all around us. May we, as parents, have the eyes to see them. May we have the wisdom to extend compassion… and may our hearts leak into our kids’, even on the days we feel like we’re losing the battle.
May we have the courage to help others, simply because every person on the planet has value in God’s eyes.