Let me tell you some stories of people who have encouraged me in thinking about loving other children well.
Story 1: First, there’s Christi. Her and her family live in Kenya, and are probably one of the coolest family I’ve gotten to know up close and personal. There family is one marked by intentionality, hospitality, and deep love. Christi’s three children go to school with other Kenyan children, not the western schools that many of the other non-Kenyan go to (I must caveat this by saying that their youngest is “Kenyan”, for all intents and purpose- born there and lived his whole life there). She shared an example today about how, when her kids weren’t learning everything she felt like they should be learning there, she chose not to pull them out, but instead to leave them there, but go in and start helping in their classrooms so the other children could be better served as well.
My reaction: I love this because Christi and her husband came up with a creative idea to love their kids (make sure they got the education they needed) AND to love other kids (teach them and make sure they get the education they need too). Well, some may say, I can’t do that here in America. Maybe not. But, you may be able to volunteer in your child’s classroom if your children are in public school.
Story 2: While in Columbia, MO, we sent Asante to a preschool a few mornings a week so he could get some interaction with other kids. Little did we know what a HUGE blessing this family would have on us– we were able to get to know the husband and wife who own and work in it, along with their fun and lovely family (5 kids!). For them, there entire life is wrapped up in kids— they spend themselves not only caring for their own family and the unique needs (there have been various issues, including medical that have been really trying for them), but also the needs of the kids in their preschool and the kids on the husband’s baseball team. For this family, they eagerly take other children into their lives and heart, and give them time that they could be spending with their children in their own home. Why? Because they love others deeply. She recently commented on how she felt like she was neglecting her kids because of the energy she was needing to give to some troubled kids in their lives, but was put at peace when one of her children suggested that they pray for the troubled kids during their evening prayers.
My reaction: This family has found a way to make a living loving other kids and in turn, their entire families. God is using them to reach kids with the gospel and all that in entails. They are blessed because they have been able to care for and teach kids in ways that their parents couldn’t. I love how this family has creatively figured out a way to love others besides their children. It fits them, their interests and their giftings.
There are many more I could tell, but these are just 2 examples of what it looks like to redefine family, and to love other children well. For each family, God asks us to do different things. There is no cookie cutter answer.
I think a life lived like this looks like a.) including our kids in whatever we’re doing, b.) making sure our children know they are deeply loved by us and by the Father, c.) that we are loving others because God has asked us to.
A few days ago I was talking to Asante (3 years old) about the fact that some kids don’t have parents, or they do have parents, but there parents can’t, for some reason or another, take care of them as well as they should. I asked Asante what we could do to help others. He said that maybe we should just ask them to live with us. I replied by saying that that would mean them having less attention from me and daddy, and that they would have to share their toys and clothes with any new kids who come into our family. Asante said after some long time of thinking to himself, “Well, I think it would be hard, but if you have to give your attention to the new kid, I could try and find something else to do during those times. I will know that you love me even if you’re giving your attention to someone else.”
I can’t help but think that if our children are raised with the sense that we have a responsibility to love and care for not only the technical orphans, but also the practical orphans (kids whose parents don’t care, or can’t care, or are unable to give them the opportunities to live well), then it becomes a natural thing. Isn’t it a natural thing for a parent and a child to welcome another kid into the family? Isn’t it natural that the parent has to sacrifice some of the opportunities of the other kids for the new child? Of course. So what if that new child is a foster child- is it right for us to sacrifice as a family to welcome in a foster child? How about an adopted child? How about a kid down the street whose parents are gone all the time working minimum-wage jobs, just trying to make ends meet? Or the kid who has angry parents who don’t know how to love themselves, much less another human being?
I just think another world is possible. I have to.