She has packed three tiny plastic jewels. They are her treasures and today, I’m not sure why she eagerly puts them in her pocket to bring to the grocery store.
We aren’t out of the car for even 5 seconds before she’s shouting at a young couple walking toward the megolith American foodstore.
“EXCUSE ME!” she shouts and I frantically try to stop her from embarrassing us both.
“This is for you,” she says, and places one of her small jewels in the man’s hand. “To make you happy. Merry Christmas!”
And the three of us adults stop in our tracks. He is bumbling with words. The young woman at his side squeals a little with joy.
“Are you sure?” he says, rolling the small plastic faux-diamond in his hand. “You want to give this to me?”
“Yes, sweetie,” I lean toward her and say a little quieter. “Are you sure you want to give those away?”
She nods fiercely, “YES. I have three to give away today.”
We are in the grocery store and she is all sniper-eyes. She’s looking for the right recipient. A grandmother with her young grandson rolls by us next to the watermelon.
“EXCUSE ME!” my daughter shouts again and the woman looks startled with the tiny shout. My girl proceeds to hand her a jewel and the same conversation commences.
“Oh wow, I don’t even –” she begins to say.
“Have a good day!” my girl says and hops along next to me again. “Merry Christmas!”
An elderly woman is hunched over the fresh bread, her long coat sweeps the floor as she surveys each bag. Her hair is snowy white against the backdrop of all this mayhem.
“Excuse me,” my little says. The woman does not respond.
“Excuse me….” she tries again and now reaches toward her slightly bent arm. “EXCUSE ME.”
(She’s still learning the art of gentility.)
“Here,” she hands her the last of the diamonds. The last of her pocketed treasure. The woman is startled, overwhelmed with the beauty of the moment, speechless.
“What’s this for?”
M pauses, “For you! Merry Christmas.” The woman stood still, unmoved and watched as my girl danced away.
Her joy was spread. Her love lavished.
You know, right? You know it too? That sickening drone of the real world that spins everywhere around us, in us, below us.
I sit at our table and I’m wrecked and I cannot do a thing. I say it, “What can we possibly do about any of this?”
I cannot do much. Our bank account balance runs continually low. My ability to change the world from my small cedar-sided house seems very unlikely. Seems insignificant. Seems pointless.
Until I look at my daughter.
I might not know how to end child slavery.
But I know how to love a child. I know how to look her in the face and say “Fight for good.” I know how wrap her hair in braids and push her toward kindness, compassion and unmerited grace. I know how to teach her that speaking up for those with no voice is better than staying silent.
I might not know how to end racism.
But I know how to speak truth. I can make our home and our table diverse. I can make her world bigger and change the way we speak, the way she speaks, and not keep silent. I can foster relationships and understanding across the street, across the block and into the heart of the city. I can show her that treasure hoarded is no treasure at all. The best kind of treasure becomes more valuable when you give it away.
I don’t know how to end homelessness.
But I can give my child a home, so that she’ll grow to understand the value of love, safety and shelter. That in her heart she’ll understand the weight of what it means for those who have no one, nothing left. That she’ll understand we are not entitled or enlightened, but just profoundly fortunate in this season to have food, clothes, a roof.
I don’t know how to fix the brokenness.
But I can carry a broken heart here — with her, with myself. I can show her how Jesus sits with the broken and busted up. How he extends grace and teaches freedom from sin. How he loves without judgement and still inspires everyone who follows him to lead a life marked by obedience and grace.
I may not know how to change the world but I can show her how to love the ones who live in it. And maybe that’s a good place to start.
She has pocketed three more jewels today, and she’s decided it’s better to give than receive. “People in this world need people who love them,” she tells me at bedtime last night. “We need to pray that they have people to love them.”
Yes, indeed, this is a good place to start.