Journey is very friendly. He’s always saying “hi” to people and I’ve seen him, on more than one occasion, brighten someone’s otherwise dreary day. I won’t even mention the free stuff we’ve gotten because he’s so sweet.
But a few months ago, he went through a phase where he wasn’t so nice to people. He was downright rude. When someone would say “hi” to him, he would respond by covering his face and throwing a mini tantrum. It wasn’t at all his normal sweet and cordial demeanor. So we started encouraging him to be kind to people. Now when someone says “hi,” he’ll say it back, then in a whispered tone to me or his father he’ll say “I’m being nice to people.” That usually gives us a little chuckle.
But I was thinking the other day about how I’m not always the friendliest. I’m not mean or nasty. I’m always polite and considerate, but not necessarily friendly. Having kids, especially one like Journey, forces me to push beyond my comfort zone and engage with those around me. Not only do I need to be aware of who is talking to my kids, but I have to be example to them, especially Faith, who I have a feeling will be more like me.
I’ve learned a lot from Journey and his interest in others, like the other day at the park. For some reason, there weren’t any other kids or parents at the park when we were there. But there was a groundskeeper. Journey kept asking about her, wanting to know who she was and what she was doing. Finally I asked him if he wanted to talk to her. So on our way out of the park, we stopped to say “hi” and thank her for keeping the park nice. I could tell it made her feel good, which made me feel good. Before having kids, I would have never taken the time to do anything like that. I’m not even sure I would have taken notice of her.
But Journey is doing exactly what I should be doing as a Christian–reaching out to those around him. When he went through his little phase, we kept reminding him that one of the ways we show the love of God to others is by being kind. “Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love” (1 John 4:7-8 NLT).
I have to be honest, when I’m out without my children, I slip into old habits. I usually avoid eye contact with people, too busy with my stuff to make connections with those around me. The people around me are the least of my concern, unless they’re causing me some sort of inconvenience. I forget to be “nice to people.” But I’m reminded of something my father always said growing up. Whenever he would drop us off somewhere that he and my mother weren’t going to be he would say “Do what you know to be right!” It was just a friendly reminder that even though they weren’t there to watch us, we still needed to do the right thing. That’s just as true now as it was then, except, it’s not my father watching, or not watching, it’s my children. So now I’m challenging myself to “do what I know to be right” with or without my children present.