What I Learned at the Intersection
My children are my pride, joy, and my most fearsome inquisitors. They’ve never met a status quo they didn’t challenge, and while that sometimes makes me want to throttle them, there are other times when their brutal truth-telling forces me to take a look at my own actions.
Sometimes that look is long overdue.
Surely, you know this feeling.
Your life and your minivan are sailing along the same road you’ve always taken when the light turns red. When you see the panhandler at the intersection, you reflexively lock the doors (whether they were already locked or not) and stare straight ahead. You don’t want to be drawn into a world of other, into pain and loss. You don’t want to look at faces all too similar to yours and wonder about how, but for accidents of fate, those eyes could be your own.
Don’t make eye contact. Don’t make eye contact. Come on, turn green!
But then the questions start from the back seat.
“Mommy, why does that man have a sign? What does it say?”
“Mommy, if he’s hungry, why aren’t we giving him food? I have goldfish right here!”
“Mommy, the sign says he needs help. Why are we not helping?”
“Mommy, why aren’t you looking at that man? He’s right outside!”
Prior to kids, I compartmentalized. I’m not proud of it, but when I was in the car and drove past a homeless person at an intersection, I averted my eyes. It would do no good to give money from my car, I reasoned. Money would just be spent on alcohol or drugs. Thus I ignored the people in need outside my window every time I saw them, and missed the chance to give comfort where I could. Yes, I felt the tug in the back of my mind that told me that my actions were not in perfect alignment with my principles, but I ignored that twinge of conscience like a mild headache.
The beauty (and the pain, to be perfectly honest) of having children is that you see through their eyes. They don’t shy away from the hard topics, and because they aren’t loaded with years of baggage, they bring a beautifully fresh and simple perspective to life. Children refuse to allow life to remain either compartmentalized or unexamined. (Witness any organizational project ever undertaken by a parent and promptly laid waste by their offspring.)
Kids want consistency from parents, not only in our discipline, but also in our examples. If you proclaim one thing at church but act inconsistently walking down the street, not only will your child notice, but you’ll spend the next hour answering questions about the illogic of your actions.
The unintentionally piercing questions of a child leave no place to hide. Seeing the warts on your own reflection is always a sobering exercise in humility, but never more so than when the mirrors are the eyes of your own child.
My children, through their relentless questions, show me the world as it really is, bringing a clarity to its beauty and brokenness alike. Above all, my children are my inspiration to finally be a better person. Perhaps I’ll start by rolling down my window.
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This post was written by Angie Kinghorn exclusively for BonBon Break Media, LLC.
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