I was raised to understand “there but for the Grace of God, go I” And I have witnessed the truth in that more times than I care to count. Life can literally change in the blink of an eye. We are all one race – the human race – and we need to be our brother’s keeper to the best of our ability.
My mum was very spiritual. She lived her Christian beliefs quietly and without need for accolades or fanfare. She never preached and often gave devout evangelicals a run for their money when they started spouting off. My dad was raised in a church going family. His mother was a Sunday School teacher. We went to church when I was younger. However, my dad had zero tolerance for people who are deeply religious but not terribly Christian and so he quickly decided that church was not or him.
I attended a number of churches in my youth. Baptist, Anglican, Catholic, Presbyterian, Lutheran and even the Synagogue. For me, it’s not so much about organized religious groups, although I do appreciate that they provide a deep sense of community. For me, it is about serving others when we are called to do so or supporting others when life is proving difficult for them to navigate. Fortunately, my career allowed me to do just that in many different ways.
A friend and I were fortunate enough to experience a brief mission in Jamaica. I attended twice, she attended several times. We were with a medical mission team and worked as support to the medical staff. We had the joy of being stationed at a hospital in Montego Bay and spent time with new mothers as well as on the pediatric ward. We went with the traveling teams out to the clinics in the outlying villages in the hills. And we loved it. It was an incredibly humbling experience. But the opportunity to chat with and support the locals was unrivalled.
Once I became a mother, I knew that I wanted my children to also have the mission experience. And so we did. Twice we went on a family mission in the hills of southeastern Kentucky and provided VBS for the local kids.
My kids attended church and I taught Sunday School, but to
me, the best way to help teach them compassion and the importance of service
was by immersing them in the real world. At home, after our missions, we
started volunteering at a local clothing room. My son actually won an award
sponsored by the newspaper for his hours of volunteering at such a young age.
My daughter also volunteered at the clothing room then moved on to volunteer at
a teen parenting program.
The kids were able to understand on a real-life basis that everyone is the same, it is merely our circumstances that are different, and life is so tenuous that any one of us could end up in similar circumstances so it was important to treat those who were struggling with the same dignity that we would want to receive. I am so incredibly blessed that both kids turned out to be caring, compassionate and helpful human beings who are also strong advocates for those less fortunate than them.