Always Real, Faith, Reruns and Leftovers


I had a girlfriend who decided that she didn’t like driving out to my house to visit after we had moved. Her reasoning was that she didn’t know how to explain to her child as they drove past gated subdivisions filled with big expensive homes (operative word here is past folks, lest you get the wrong idea!) how come some people had so much more than they did.

This baffled me, because my friend was fairly well off by anyone’s standards. She didn’t have to work, she had a nice house, a late model car, a housekeeper and she bought pretty much whatever she wanted. When she brought this up to me, I countered (perhaps a little too defensively) that what I thought would be harder to explain is how come so many more people have so little. I suggested that she take a drive down to south Dallas and then have that discussion.

Needless to say, our girlfriendship was on the rocks and it didn’t require much more than a slight breeze to send it careening into a canyon. Nonetheless, I’ve thought back on that conversation many times since Sean came along, about how to explain the inexplicable condition of the world.

Where Sean takes swimming lessons, there is a boy in an earlier class with no legs from the mid-thigh down. I don’t know what his story is. When we arrive, we find his little plastic legs, complete with shoes and socks and pants parked near the changing table along with his pint-sized walker. Sean has been oblivious to this until recently. Several weeks ago, however, as I was helping him into his swimming suit, he pointed to them and said, “Somebody forgot their legs!” I looked at those little legs and I wondered if the mother of that boy ever considered that she not expose him to a world where people have legs, so that maybe he would never know that he didn’t. See how ridiculous that is, even for a heart that loves as deeply and intensely and ferociously and protectively as a mothers?

As Sean grows and his awareness of the world around him expands and develops, there will be many occasions that will require difficult explanation. There is a lot of ugliness and unfairness in the world that makes no sense no matter what your religious or political stripe. All I know to do is tell him the truth about the world. And the truth is I don’t know why some have more, some have less, some work hard and have little, some work little and have a lot, some are healthy, some are sickly, some have legs, some don’t.

I’ll tell him that both his father and mother believe that all blessings belong to the Creator and they are His to bestow and rescind as He pleases. I will tell him that both his father and mother have been blessed mightily and cursed tragically in their lives, as most people have, yet we are firm in our belief that our God is present and with us in all circumstances, rain or shine.

As Sean matures, I hope that he will learn that the measure of his life is in his character — not in what he has and most certainly not in comparison with what others may have. I hope he understands that his worth lies not in his legs or lack thereof, but in his heart. If he can learn to be contented with and grateful for whatever worldly blessings come his way, then whatever his lot, all will be well with his soul. And I will have done my job.

This post was originally published in May of 2006.

29 thoughts on “Explanations

  1. As a teacher/librarian, I was very relieved recently to find that one of my favorite students would not be transferring to a “gifted” students program at another school. Not just because I enjoy her and she is an avid reader, but because I don’t think it is in the best interest of any child to put them in a situation where every child is just like them. They should be where there are rich kids, poor kids, special ed kids, disabled kids and every other kind of kid, including Martians if they are so inclined to send their kids to school here on good ole’ Earth. So, I agree with you. It’s a good thing for kids to understand there are many, many different kinds of people, some who have received many blessings and some with difficulties to overcome. And that our lives will probably include some of both. Raise them up to understand that and you will have raised a compassionate, caring adult.

  2. What a beautiful entry. . . and what a heartbreaking thing for Sean to say; it’s so childlike in it’s straightforwardness and innocence, as if he were saying “someone forgot their shoes.”

    And, by the way, It’s so wonderful to read a blog that bursts with love of God, without being judgemental or preachy. You are just amaze me.

  3. I think that as a parent, our job is to explain things as best we can, to help to expand their horizons and when they encounter something that they question answer their questions openly, honestly and simply. My daughter recently saw a little girl in a wheel chair and asked me about it. I simply explained that sometimes when people are born their legs don’t work and they need a chair to get around. She was fine with that and moved on with her day.

  4. She actually said that? That she didn’t want to visit because she’d have to pass expensive homes? That’s got to be one of the strangest things I’ve ever heard anyone say.

  5. My sons are 9 and 6, and we’ve already had to explain many more hard truths than I would like to have addressed so early. My parents were divorced, which prompted lots of awkward questions, and my dad passed away almost 3 years ago. The hardest question was when my then 6-year-old asked me why, when we prayed for God to make his Grandaddy better, God didn’t heal him. I had to say a quick prayer and think hard and quickly, but God, in His graciousness, provided the answer – my dad WAS healed. There’s no sickness or sadness in heaven!

    Another time was after field day, when my older son was so disappointed that he doesn’t have athletic gifts. He cried, I cried, but finally we had a wonderful discussion on how God gifts all of us differently for His glory and expects us to use the gifts and talents we do have, not covet those we don’t. Would I have taken that hurt away? Absolutely! Would I then have missed an opportunity to teach a profound truth about how God wants to work through us? Also absolutely.

    You will be continually amazed at what your son can understand and how much your words and actions are being scrutinized all the time, but oh, what a blessing to be in this season of life!

  6. This is a great post — and so true.

    My children are 5 and 3, so we’re just entering the phase were they notice evil and differences in the world. I think one of the greatest — and toughest — jobs I have it to create compassionate hearts in them.

  7. We’ve always tried to raise our kids with the understanding that the world is, quite intentionally, fully of great diversity. No matter where you go or what you do, there will always be people with less than you have and people with more. People who are smarter or more creative than you are and those who are less intelligent or creative. It’s simply the way of the world. Sadness and broken-ness and chronic illness such as cancer? Those occur in even the wealthiest of homes and happiness and peace can reside among humble families with fewer material possessions. In a much smaller sense, it’s like recognizing that your best friend is really, really good at math and knowing that you are not, but you don’t freak out over it because, at the same time, you have the ability to love words and writing and your good friend never picks up a book and can’t even stand to compose a grocery list…let alone write an essay. If you are aware that gifts and abilities are bestowed in such a random fashion, it allows you to understand that no one has cornered the market on good fortune without little detractors on the way.

    Sure, Donald Trump has an enormous amount of money and influence. But even all of that influence can’t persuade the man that it is a father’s duty to change his infant son’s diapers (instead of the nanny’s job or the wife’s…this came from an interview I read) and he still doesn’t have enough sense to stop wearing that hideous combover. I wouldn’t trade places with him for anything. Really.

    I also have a friend who was born with very short arms. That is to say that he has no forearms at all and his hands grow from the elbow like those of a child whose mother who took Thalidomide. Despite this, he has a law degree and is a very successful CPA. He is happily married and has two sons. So many things are difficult for him (buckling his belt/retrieving his wallet from a rear pocket), but he drives and cooks and loves his life. He can’t play baseball with his kids and camping with the scout troop is hard, but he uses his number sense to keep the troop financial books (no small task). He is also a marathon runner. Literally. I ran the White Rock Half Marathon with him, and despite the lack of arms to “catch” himself if he were to fall or to use as balance? The man is a far superior runner to me and beat my butt to the finish line every single time. This guy doesn’t feel sorry for himself because he wasn’t raised to feel as though he was missing anything. He accepted the things he couldn’t do and has the grace to ask for help when he needs it. Instead, he concentrated on the things he COULD do and excelled at them. Consequently, I don’t see a guy with shorter arms when we’re around each other. I just see Jim.

    That boy is SO lucky because his parents have raised him to assume that being without legs doesn’t mean he shouldn’t learn to swim…or be around kids who have legs because he’ll feel bad about it. And some day he’ll see a kid without arms and know, once again, how the universe bestows those things in such a scattershot way. Maybe he already has. And the girlfriend who doesn’t want her child to see “nice” homes for fear she can’t explain away the good fortune of those people just makes me want to hurl. There’s no reasoning with those who can’t be reasoned with. Sorry I hijacked your comments. This was a great post.

  8. Brilliant post. We expose our children to all kinds of things/people/situations so they can learn how blessed we are as a family, as a nation, compared to so many others, and to teach them that they affect the world with their decisions, their choices and their actions.

    I’m so glad you are teaching Sean to be sensitive and caring.

  9. Excellent and very well said. We have just started to have such conversations, so thank you for simplifying such a hard question. I love the line about our Creator, specifically. Thanks for re-posting this!

  10. Oswald Chambers writes in his devotional for June 13…”The one true mark of a saint of God is the inner creativity that flows from being totally surrendered to Jesus Christ” and this, “If you abandon everything to Jesus, and come when He says, “Come,” then He will continue to say, “Come,” through you. You will go out into the world reproducing the echo of Christ’s “Come.”” I thought of this post as I read his words.

    I enjoy your writing for the way that you share truth and the hope that you have in such a compassionate and gracious way. How awesome that God is using Mom bloggers to share his Good News with the world.


    (The link for My Utmost for His Highest is in case you want to read the words in context.)

  11. Helping our children see the world through the eyes of others is one of the best gifts we can give them. It’s called compassion. No, the explainations are not always easy to come by, but skirting the issue does our children a disservice.

    We just recently moved to Texas from Idaho. We are in Sachse, not too far from the intersection of the George Bush Freeway and Hwy. 78. All I can say at this point is boy is it hot!

  12. When our children were in middle school, we used to take them through bad areas of town, so they could see that other people lived differently than we did. I was hoping that they would gain compassion for other children who lived in extreme conditions. It is hard to explain “the haves and the have nots”, but with you for a mother — Sean is in good hands.

  13. When I was younger my father was a teacher and my mother a stay at home Mom. They sent me to the best elementary school in town, so all my friends’ parents were lawyers and doctors and radiologists, lived in huge houses, while we lived in a small apartment. I honestly, honestly never realized how large those differences were, until much later when I went to college. In fact, I always felt more privileged, because my mother was one of the few ones that was home during the day, so I could bring friends home over lunch, when my mother would make pancakes- kids were lining up to go to lunch with me! I remember my Mom teaching art classes at my elementary school, and thinking how creative she was and how other kids wanted their parents to come to school as well. Two of my best friends had to stay in an after school care plan, because both of her parents worked, and I always felt bad for them. In short– I felt ‘richer’ than any of those other kids, who didn’t get to spend so much time with their parents. I am now an illustrator, mostly due to the fact that my mother was an artist and was always drawing.

    I guess my point is, that children really don’t realize these differences, but what stays with them is their emotional connections. I had to wait until Christmas to get the more expensive toys, but when I got them it really impacted me. Some can’t even remember their favorite Xmas gifts, while I still have fond memories of them. But the best gift they could have ever given me is that of creativity.

    So I wouldn’t worry about it too much- it sounds like your friend might have a case of the grass-is-greener-over-there herself?

  14. Thea!!!!!!!!!
    I just had to respond to your comment… my mama stayed at home when I was I child… and one of my best childhood memories is always being able to bring kids over for lunch and my mum making pancakes for us… and yes those kids loved it (and I did too)… my mum teached art classes at my school… and now I want to be an illustrator… mostly because, thanks to my mama, art was what I grew up with…
    sooooo… are you me???

    Oh and I completely agree with this:

    “And, by the way, It’s so wonderful to read a blog that bursts with love of God, without being judgemental or preachy. You are just amaze me.”

    and I’m not even religious :)… it’s just beautiful to read…

  15. Rich and Poor

    One day a father of a very wealthy family took his son on a trip to the country with the firm purpose of showing his son how poor people can be.
    They spent a couple of days and nights on the farm of what would be considered a very poor family.
    On their return from their trip, the father asked his son, “How was the trip?” It was great, Dad.”
    Did you see how poor people can be?” the father asked. Oh Yeah” said the son.
    “So what did you learn from the trip?” asked the father. The son answered, I saw that we have one dog
    and they had four.” We have a pool that reaches to the middle of our garden and they have a creek that has no end.” We have imported lanterns in our garden and they have the stars at night.” Our patio reaches to the front yard and they have the whole horizon.” “We have a small piece of land to live on and they have fields that go beyond our sight.” We have servants who serve us, but they serve others.” We buy our food, but they grow theirs.” “We have walls around our property to protect us, they have friends to protect them.” With this the boy’s father was speechless. Then his son added, “Thanks, dad, for showing me how poor we are.”

  16. “As Sean matures, I hope that he will learn that the measure of his life is in his character — not in what he has and most certainly not in comparison with what others may have.”
    —This is in my top 5 priorities in raising my children. I admire and agree with your outlook very much.

  17. I never read this one before but I’m so glad you posted it again. It’s amazing how much our kids pick up on sometimes. I totally agree with you and think you handled it just great!

    It reminds me of the time my five year old asked “How come God gives and takes away, Mom?” This was after hearing a song on the radio.

  18. You made me cry!! I am pregnant with my first, and I pray every day for him (or her), and think about things like this- how to talk to my child about these things. What a blessing to read your refreshing viewpoint!

  19. As always, I come here to nourish my soul and to remember what is so right with the world. As always, I am never disappointed. Great post!

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