September 19, 2012 / Christi Zellerhoff
I DON’T WANT TO GO! protested my 9 year old son. “Yes, you are going to go,” I said; and off we went to feed the homeless at a local church cooperative organization called “TRANSFORM BURIEN.”
How do you prepare your young children for what experiences they may encounter when feeding people in need? Simply, be honest with them.
“You may see and feed people young and old, who haven’t showered; come in soiled clothing; look sad or angry; perhaps they will seem different to you,” I counseled him. “Will they hurt me mom?” “No, you will be safe.” Hesitantly, he got into the car with the rest of our family. His grumbling stopped, replaced with silence.
When we arrived, we were each assigned a “job” along the serving assembly line. My son chose to hand out the plates and napkins-the first point of contact. This surprised me.
Standing next to him, at first I noticed that he was subdued, trying not to stare as, one by one, people extended their hand to receive their plate and napkin. EVERY time he handed out a plate, he received a gracious “thank you.” “Your welcome,” he would reply. Then I noticed it-his skeptical demeanor changed. He began returning conversation to those who engaged him.
He looked at me and smiled big.
On the way home, I asked him how he felt about the experience. “What did you think about the people you met today? Where you scared?” His reply? “No mom, I realized they were no different than me.”
I still tear up when I tell this story. My 9 year old son taught me a beautiful lesson that day. He looked past the dirt, tattered clothing, sad and hungry eyes, and at times, offensive smells. He saw their hearts; he embraced their kind and gracious souls; and he served without prejudice.