My Forward Movement colleagues and I are in Austin, Texas for the 79th General Convention of The Episcopal Church. People come from all over the country every three years to attend this vital meeting of The Church’s governing body, including babies, kids, and teens.
Two nights ago, Rachel, Jason and I walked to a small market near our lodging. As we approached, a girl around sixteen years old walked out with a large bag. She handed it to a man sitting on the sidewalk, and said: “Here’s two liters of water, some gummy bears, and some crackers, okay?” We observed this kindness silently. When we exited the store, I noticed the man was gone.
Yesterday, Jason shared how that interaction with the girl and the man affected him. “I recognized that girl from Convention. I watched her give water and food to that man when I’ve been here for ten days, and I haven’t done anything for homeless people.
“But this morning when I walked to get our coffee, I walked by a park and saw a homeless man sitting on a bench. Someone told me is that the worst thing you can do for homeless people is to walk by without acknowledging them. So I said ‘good morning.’ He replied, ‘Good morning!’ He said, ‘Hey can I ask you a question?’ I stopped walking and went to where he was on the bench.
“ ‘Thank you for being normal,’ he said. ‘Most people walk around unaware of themselves let alone other people around them.’ He asked me for money, and I ended up buying him a coffee. The reason I did was that at that moment, that young girl inspired me to do it.”
Jason’s story highlights a theme I’ve observed in our church, and in our world. We tend to refer to kids and teens as future leaders. Kids and teens don’t need to wait until adulthood to lead, and we’re shortsighted if we believe that they should. Young people lead us now and have always guided us. Too often, we don’t pay attention.
“Don’t forget to learn from young people,” Jason cautions. “Maybe that girl was naïve to give to panhandlers, but I’d become jaded. She’s a young person, sixteen years old, who inspired me to see homeless people as people.”
I don’t know this girl, but I know teens like her. Her family and village must be very proud of her. I know I am. She gives me hope for our future. Her actions exemplify the way of love, and that’s just what we need.
What lessons have you learned from children lately? How do you let children teach you?