Saturday, December 8, 2007

The Core of the Matter

Several years ago while I studied at Trinity Western University (TWU) in Langley, I spent the month of May in Fort Babine, British Columbia. Babine, a small, isolated First Nations reserve two hours outside of Smithers, is a community that rarely sleeps soundly. In the late afternoon, young men may be playing hockey in the gym while women watch; elders may be making moccasins to sell, or catching, drying or packing fresh moose-meat for the coming winter. As the night draws on, William may order a Pay-Per-View match of World Wrestling Entertainment, others might play video games, or watch movies. But while the clock ticks closer to midnight, bottles of alcohol inevitably begin to open, and instead of thinking about bed, the “party begins.”
Quinton (13) and Tashawnda (11) are two native children who were adopted by a single native, Christian woman named Violet. They slowly learn the virtues of the Christian life through the work of their mom, missionaries from Streetcorners Ministries in Smithers and a few students from TWU. For several years, I was one of those students who hoped to encourage them in their young faith.
When school ends at 3:00, Quinton and Tashawnda join their class mates in the slow but short walk back to their homes down the road. I have assisted Mr. and Mrs. Forbes, who have inevitably given homework that they inevitably dread. As I join them in their walk back home, I encourage them to complete it quickly so they may be able to watch the new DVD Violet just bought them, go fishing off the Babine Bridge or join their older friends in the gym later on for a game of hockey. But as I say this I equally understand that the chances of this happening are slim.
In the evening, the struggles continue. Tucking them in to bed, reading them Bible stories, eating an apple, and saying Good night at 11:00pm rather than 1:00am seems to be a good idea for kids who have been brought up well by well meaning parents. But when you have been raised in a place where kids fall asleep at one or two in the morning in front of the TV, reading of any kind may not occur at all outside of school, and a bag of chips is more readily available than a healthier piece of fruit. Needless to say, it takes a lot of work, if it is attempted, because even this tiny piece of wisdom, ‘go to bed early’ is rarely, seen as fun or a good idea. Therefore, wisdom like this is rarely enforced. Instead, it is most likely heard as a command that was made to be broken, given by an exasperated mother who would do anything just to get some peace.
So when the kids run home for lunch, I mention to Violet that I would like to tuck her kids into bed that night, read them a story, give them an apple (like my Dad did for me) and make it fun for them. Tashawnda has a friend over that night, and Quinton has decided to join his friends at the school, so at around 10:00, which soon becomes 10:30 Tashawnda and Kiesha are finally ready.
As I hoped and expected, they saw this as an exciting idea and ten minutes later, I gave them apples to eat while I read them “The Giving Tree” by Shel Silverstien, a book that takes only minutes to read, but a lifetime to practice. As I finish, I realize that the girls, who have pointed at the pictures and ask questions throughout, have eaten the apples down to the core and if they found them appetizing would probably eat the seeds as well. It was obvious to me that they had enjoyed a different way of spending an evening at home.
In Philippians 4:7-8, Paul gives pieces of wisdom that are more important than going to bed early, brushing your teeth, reading a bed time story or eating an apple. Here, he says we should think about things that are “true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy.”
When we see others do things that are different, we can not help but become curious. As we examine their actions, we often wonder what it would be like to practice what they preach. I’m sure that in the afternoon Tashawnda and Kiesha were curious about what might happen instead of watching yet another movie late into the night. And after the light was switched off and “Good Night(s)” were exchanged, I couldn’t help wondering if my tiny act may affect these two girls in a small but substantial way. An early bedtime, an apple, a story and hearing the words “good night”, may not be what Paul is encouraging us to do in Philippians 4, but I think it’s a good start.

Then he put a little child among them. Taking the child in his arms, he said to them, “Anyone who welcomes a little child like this on my behalf[a] welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me welcomes not only me but also my Father who sent me.”

Mark 9:36-37

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Son, your wisdom overwhelms me. I think that you were grace and truth and love to these children. And that is the core of the matter. -- DAD