Saturday, March 17, 2012

How Not to be a Spoiled Brat, and Other Mysteries (by Josh)


     I’m not sure why, but this year’s Fast  has seemed a bit harder than usual.  It may be due to the heat, as I’m usually fasting in a place where it’s rarely above 60 degrees in March.  It may also have something to do with not working outside the home, where one can become more fully distracted by daily duties.  Whatever it is, I can't seem to stop fantasizing about burgers, Nachos Bell Grande and milkshakes.  But it's also gotten me thinking more about the significance of the Fast and just what I should be learning from it, chiefly, appreciation.
     This has actually been a topic firmly on my mind as of late.  The other day Max had a big fit over washing a few of his own dishes and all I could think of was a story told by a friend of mine.  This friend hails from Haiti, but now lives in the Dominican Republic.  I asked him, one of the first times we met, how long he’d been in this country and just how he got here, and his answer has stuck with me since.  It went something like this: 
My father died when I was 14.  Before that, he had supported me, so I could go to school.  But since he died, I had no one, so I came here to live with my sister and brother.  I started by shining shoes on the street, but eventually moved up to my current position, doing occasional yard work, and this is much better.
   
     Now, as you might be able to guess, the “occasional” nature of his work is not by choice.  This is the same young man who came by our house mid-morning one day to say hi.  I was making breakfast for the kids, so I asked him if he’d eaten.  His reply was: “Nope, I haven’t found work yet today.”
     These two comments were so incredibly poignant and loaded to me.  The way he talked about his father, it seemed that he had no notion at all of deserving to be taken care of and schooled by his parents.  Rather, he appreciated the period of time when he’d been lucky enough to be supported so he could go to school and get some basic skills, but that dream had ended long ago.
     And so you might be able to appreciate, as it were, why this would be blazoned in my mind as I stare, lovingly frustrated, at my wonderful offspring who doesn’t even want to wash his own damn dishes.  “You’re welcome for the food,” I replied to him, “and you’re welcome for all the other dishes I just washed.  Have fun, and rinse them well.”
     So it is that that particular situation ended, but the issue continues to spin around in my head: How can we teach our kids to truly appreciate all that they have?  Hardship and prayer are the first things that spring to mind.  Rebecca and I were elated when we took a trip back to the U.S. and the kids were mesmerized by soft beds and warm showers (we’d been roughing it for a while, but haven’t for quite some time).  Or the hand full of times that they’ve gotten excited because the lights sprang to life when the switch was flipped.  The most touching was Zora’s prayer one evening, on a day that we’d passed a child begging at an intersection: “Thank you God for giving me a mom and a dad to take care of us.”  
     However, it just still doesn’t seem to be enough, and in a place where so many of the people living at our “economic level” have maids, it makes me ever more vigilant in trying to protect them from being completely spoiled. 
     For example, we signed the kids up for an art class at a local museum.  This class was a blast, but an expensive one, and so I shouldn’t have been so surprised when the first class finished and all the kids were sent away without having to clean up after themselves at all.  I made sure that my kids stayed behind to help with the cleanup, but when I queried the teacher about it, she just told me that it was the assistant’s job, the reason she was there.  No thought seemed to have been given to the need for kids to learn not just art, but basic skills like cleaning up (I’m sure the irony of reading this from me is just killing anyone who knows me, but try not to get any tears on your keyboard from the laughter).
     As I cherish another swig of sweet H2O, which I will voluntarily forgo, along with food, during the daylight hours over the next few days, I hope and pray that I will find an effective way for my children to learn to appreciate all that they have, short of tragically losing it.

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