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Jen Hatmaker, Mister Rogers, and Me
I did not realize, upon becoming a parent, how often I would be quoting Mister Rogers and his Neighborhood.
“I like you, just the way you are.”
“I think I’ll make a snappy new day.” (What? I think I will.)
And of course: “Look for the helpers.”
Mister Rogers explained that his mother used to tell him to always look for the helpers, especially when “disasters” hit. Someone will always come to help.
I want my kids to look for the helpers. I also want them to know that WE HELP. I want them to know that when they have needs, God will always send helpers, and when other people have needs, we can be those helpers.
Jen Hatmaker’s book, INTERRUPTED? It’s the story of how God showed her that need is happening all the time, and the helpers need to be us.
It’s not easy and it’s not convenient and it’s going to interrupt your life, but once you’ve been interrupted, you wouldn’t have it any other way.
– About 1.2 billion people live on 23 cents per day.
– Someone dies of hunger every 3.6 seconds.
– 100 million people in the world are entirely homeless.
– 780 million people don’t have access to clean water.
God interrupted Jen’s life — her comfortable, steeped-in-Christian-subculture-life — to help. To serve. And to lead others in service.
“Americans living in excess beyond imagination while the world cries out for intervention is an unbearable tension and utterly misrepresents God’s kingdom.” Yes.
God uses all kind of things to interrupt our lives. To shift our perspective.
For me, it was parenting.
Here’s the deal. Our kids — my kids, your kids — are going to grow up to be some of the most privileged people on the planet.
How do we address the difference between our circumstances, and the ones Jen outlines in Interrupted?
I want to be intentional about teaching our kids that “helping others” isn’t an extracurricular activity. It’s a relational one. We help by forming relationships, asking questions, listening, and then meeting needs.
So about meeting those needs…
And I think — I THINK — my kids learn this best by first having their needs met by us parents. Because oh, do they start out needy and messy and chaotic, each and every one of them. In the beginning, they can’t feed themselves, or clean themselves, or keep themselves warm, or find a safe place to sleep.
But when we step in and we meet them in that place, when we put aside our own expectations for rest and quiet and un-crayoned-upon sofas, and instead tend to the child that inconveniently needs our help — then they know what it feels like to be the one who needs something, and they learn what it feels like to have their needs met with dignity.
When we present them with opportunities to help address the needs of others, doing that will feel right to them.
I might be totally wrong.
But even if I’m wrong about that, even if my kids could have learned to serve others without me serving them first — that’s okay.
I still get to be changed by the daily practice of it.
I still get to practice having my heart broken by need, up close and personal, every day.
I still get to practice putting aside my own agenda to meet (short) people where they are.
I still get to practice patience, and gentleness, and kindness, and goodness, and self-control, and love.
I get a crash course in spiritual development, every single day! And since we have a whole bunch of kids, they get to practice with each other, too.
There are people in need EVERYWHERE.
Some of them are in your house.
Jen says this: “Serving people is not heaven’s requirement, only a response to heaven’s mercy.”
And this: “It’s about creating a place to belong before people are expected to behave or even believe.” (She’s talking about church here. I’m applying it to family. Same-same.)
And this: “An accurate understanding of grace will wreck the tidy categories we’ve assigned people and allow us to open our arms wide.”
Let’s keep our arms open wide.
Let’s be the helpers. Every day.
Start where you are. It might seem small. It might turn out to be bigger than you thought.
Start somewhere. Start here.