My husband and I often contemplate writing a book about raising children. It’s not that we exemplify perfect parenting, but we have logged 196,000 research hours between us.
We figure that if a single guardian benefits from our experience (i.e. mistakes), it will be our little contribution to parent-kind. One of the first chapters in the book will be titled, “Hungry kids will eat, thirsty kids will drink.” When you have four children, the heavenly stars have to align (Old Country Buffet) before everyone gets served what they love. There are always going to be complaints. I quickly learned to stick to my guns and to serve a menu that targets low fat, low sugar, and low salt. Water starts to taste like Kool-Aid if it is the only refreshment to emerge on the lunch box horizon. Likewise, corn and carrots actually start to taste like French fries.
Envision my husband in the background shouting in his best General Patton voice, “You must conquer the Land of Fruits and Vegetables before you invade the Island of Dessert!”
Imagine how I felt after being drafted to prepare snacks for 35 children at a Bible school when my own four children can be a tough crowd. How did I approach kitchen duty? I served one child at a time.
Vacation Bible School at our church, Forest Park Baptist, is wonderful. The entire building is decorated to appeal to the visual appetite of young ones seeking excitement and adventure. There are sessions dedicated to arts and crafts, music and dance, and recreation. Each endeavor is tailored to be engaging. At the same time, each activity centers on introducing the joy that a spiritual relationship with God can bring to one’s life.
I don’t quite recall the same Bible school experience when I was younger. Of course, I received the core message. However, the excitement and fun associated with being closer to God was substituted with solemn and serious regimen. One of the modern day mysteries that I yearn to solve is identifying the scripture that advises an adult to pop a child in the head for chewing gum in the church sanctuary.
As I served snacks to each child at Vacation Bible School, I easily buried my own spiritual hang ups and marveled at the warmth and friendship of the children of our community. Despite the variety in ethnicity and age, I truly viewed each child as my own. Research supports that the positive influence of an adult is the biggest contributor to the success of our youth. For most children, the positive inspiration funnels directly from a parent. For some children, a school teacher or sports coach will display behavior that has life-long impact.
For other children, a positive affirmation will come from you.
These “other” children may not live on your block or even on your side of town. These other children may not look like you or attend the same church as you. Nevertheless, these other children are our children.
I encourage the adults in the village of Forest Park to reach out to the other children who need a positive adult in their lives. Reaching out may involve sharing one minute, one hour, one day, one week, or one lifetime. If the potential commitment appears overwhelming, just treat it like snack time at Vacation Bible School. Serve one child at a time.