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Archive for the ‘Grace’ Category

This morning, my elder son clamored at my arm, “Mommy, help! I need a can of vegetables!”

Yes, he does like vegetables more than the average kid, which is wonderful, but he wasn’t begging to eat a breakfast of cold canned green beans. He was reminding me that we are trying to get back on track with something that we used to do religiously* but have kind of slacked off on in recent months.

(*Er, you know what I mean.)

Until last summer, my son took a can of vegetables or fruit with him when we went to church. When we got to church, he placed the can in a shopping cart just inside the entryway at the side door. The shopping cart is our church’s collection bin for Second Harvest, a non-profit that collects food donations for its Food Bank, which then distributes the food to agencies that serve the needy in our region. 

The point was that my son took a can to church every single time he went to church. If we went to church twice in one week, we took two cans of food. If we went three times, then the shopping cart was three cans heavier, thanks to my son. The can of food was his offering. It was his visible reminder of how privileged we are to have plenty to eat and because we are so grateful, we want to share what we have with others who are less fortunate. It is our response to God’s grace.

A relevant Scriptural reference for this comes from the following passages in the book of Matthew:
  • Matthew 5: 35: “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in.”
  • Matthew 5: 40: “The King will reply, I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”  [Life Application Study Bible, New International Version.]

The food donation worked well, too, because every toddler and preschooler on the planet starts to grapple with the concept of sharing. Taking a can of food from our pantry and leaving it in the shopping cart was excellent practice in the art of sharing. My son understood 1) sharing is good, 2) there are hungry people out there, and 3) so we’ll share our food with them so they won’t be hungry.  And bless him, my son always liked to pick out his favorite food from the canned food stock in the pantry to share, not the stuff that he couldn’t care less about. Sometimes, I even let him pick out the cans at the grocery store so he could make sure to get some good stuff.

Then last summer, I broke my ankle. Yeah, no,  it wasn’t such a good time. There I was, with a new baby, a four-year-old and a bad wheel. Except for one committee meeting that required the entire committee to get me there, I didn’t make it to church for quite awhile. I was stuck in my house with a boot on my bruised-and-battered leg and a pair of crutches. By the time I did start going to church again, we were out of the canned food habit. I was lugging along an infant, his diaper bag, my purse, my elder son and his stuff, all on my wobbly ankle, while trying to gingerly navigate the long walk from the parking lot to the nursery where I could at least deposit some of that load. 

Oof. I’m having flashbacks, remembering.

It just seemed like I couldn’t manage a single additional thing, and unfortunately the can of food fell by the wayside. But occasionally, my elder son would walk by the shopping cart and say, “We really need to start bringing some food for the shopping cart again, Mommy. The cart’s almost empty.”

He was right. Second Harvest desperately needs food donations. You can probably guess how dire the need for food donations has been during the last few years, with the shaky economy and then the flood that demolished so many people’s homes last spring in Middle Tennessee. I fretted about how we fell away from our commitment to help.

So this morning, when my son reminded me that he needed a can of food, I resolved to stop letting things get in the way. He and I walked over to the pantry and studied the contents. I try to be mindful of the food bank’s actual needs–they like to get donations of beans, protein, peanut butter, canned tuna, veggies and fruits because those are the most nutritionally useful–so I’ve always tried to steer my son toward the healthy options.  We assessed the possibilities, ruling out the cans of chicken broth (why on earth do I have so many cans of chicken broth?) and the Chef Boy-R-Dee.

“How about diced tomatoes?” I suggested. “Or, hmmm, garbanzo beans? Those are good.”

Not sure what garbanzo beans were, he chose the tomatoes. And he was happy to have an offering to take to church again.

That’s it. We’re getting back on the wagon. We’re going to resume our good habit. People need us. God needs us to respond.

***

If you’re seeking a way to make giving relevant to your young child’s life, I highly recommend the food donation. My child loves the hands-on nature of thunking the can into the shopping cart. It’s tangible, and he remembers it afterward, which is even better.

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