I believe in children seeing communities and circumstances different from their own, especially if their own circumstances are relatively easy. I seem to have been born with inherent empathy and it’s taken a lifetime to realize that many people have to learn empathy. As a parent, I took the role of teaching empathy and emotional intelligence seriously. Now, my son is fully in teen-hood and can see adulthood growing nearer on the horizon. I know my direct influence will soon wane and the residue of what I’ve shown him will, hopefully, flavor his own walk in the world.
He’s been watching me work in the non-profit arena (new to me) for several months. I talk about my experiences often and share freely my enthusiasm for what I do. But I know my son. He learns best from doing, not listening. Last week, we were given the opportunity for doing. My son was on fall break and House on the Hill, a recipient partner with Glean Kentucky, was packing up food boxes for delivery. Wednesday morning, I woke him early and we headed over to pack boxes.
When we arrived, I quickly saw we were in great company. Several community members, including local police officers, were ready to work! Joel, who runs the operation, has this down to a science. In about an hour, we had jam packed 150 large food boxes for delivery. I was also impressed with the way the food we packed made sense. We packed pasta sauce and pasta, tuna helper and tuna. It felt good to know we would deliver boxes of food that would make real meals to feed the people who needed them.
We loaded up our car to deliver 9 food boxes to 6 households. I overestimated how many huge boxes my car would carry. So, as we pulled out of the parking lot, my son had a box on his lap until we made it to our first delivery. I’m guessing this contributed to his teen-attitude about having to deliver the food. He mused aloud that we were now “Uber Eats”. I recognized his own privilege peeking through, but I decided to wait and let him see for himself.
In the next hour, we delivered boxes to seniors, single moms, and multiple families living together in one home. Everyone was kind and so appreciative. He saw people who could have been his grandparent, aunt, cousin, or brother. Each time we pulled up to a home to deliver, I saw his wheels turning. The mild indignation that began our delivery route gave way to a humble kindness. I watched his confidence grow as he carried these heavy boxes into each home. By the time we were finished and driving home, he began sharing ideas for how this could be easier next time. I didn’t have the heart to tell him it might be summer before he has another chance to do this. But that didn’t matter as much as the light I saw in him that day. He saw a world different from his own and it changed him. That is worth everything.