by Danielle Barnhart
As a parent, have you ever thought that maybe you aren’t instilling in your children all you had hoped to? I can’t be the only person who feels like this! When our little ones are born, we do all the right things. We baby-proof the house, read them all the beautiful board books that you were showered with as gifts, we only use the Dreft detergent, and of course we buy a wide variety of very wholesome foods, because our children will NOT grow up to eat chicken nuggets.
Fast forward three years…Some of the books on the shelf are dusty, the toddler lives on ONLY chicken nuggets, and especially when they’re out in public, people must think my home has no boundaries or rules by the way my son is body surfing down the aisles in the grocery store. I know, kids are so fun, right?
Twenty years ago, I had the opportunity to go on a trip, mostly because my mom thought it would be a great thing for me to experience. Was I excited? Yes, of course. But I had no idea how much this trip would shape the course of my life and impact my future. Fast forward 20 years, and I am traveling to the Dominican Republic that very same mission trip with my 2 sons, now ages 8 and 10. My sons have heard countless stories about poverty, have seen pictures of villages where children are hungry and unclothed. They have heard that some children have no opportunities to change their circumstances simply because they were born in a country stricken by poverty.
As a family, we sponsor children to attend school, and without this sponsorship, they would not have the opportunity to have an education. The cost? A mere $200 for the entire year! We pray for “our” kids, we talk about them and look forward to seeing their sweet little smiles in photos and in person when we go see them in the DR! Why do we sponsor kids? Because I love kids, and because that’s the kind of people I want to raise…people who care about other people; People who have hearts to love a person simply because they can, and that love can change the course of a person’s life. That is the God’s honest truth. Loving others can change lives!
My son met the little boy he sponsors just this past July. This will be the 3rd year that little Alexander Martinez is attending school because my son sponsors him. Well, he’s 8, so he doesn’t have a job to pay for such a thing. But when his birthday rolls around, instead of making a big wish-list of all the things he wants (to collect dust in his room or be pushed to the side mere weeks from the party), he asks his friends to make a donation to his “sponsorship fund” instead. As his birthday is approaching in a few days, I asked Eli to let me know if he had thought of any gift ideas so I could go out shopping, he thought for a second. “Ehhhh, what about a pogo stick? (5 second pause) Are they expensive? (5 more second pause) Ahhh, forget it, I’ll just take a donation to my DR trip so I can go again next year.”
In that moment, first, I choked back tears. Then my heart just felt full, and I thanked God for letting me be a mom to this sweet boy. This sweet boy is the reason for most of my strands of silver glitter hair (I pluck them, in case you’re wondering). This boy is the ultimate picture of energy, which in some situation, is not always good. He can be opinionated (even when his opinion is not popular or untimely in its delivery), he can be challenging, he can be hysterical, and in general, just a “handful”. But most of all, he can be a child that makes an impact on the world because he loves deeply, he cares about others, and he knows that God is doing a mighty work in and through him. He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep, to gain that which he cannot lose.
So, today, I think I have this parenting thing down! Ask me tomorrow, I may have another answer for you…