I just wanted to see some giving for the heart. That Christmas season, Dave and I walked through a large room in the social services department. Tables were piled with brand new gifts for children. Local folks and organizations had given freely and graciously, wanting to provide children who had little with a good Christmas.
Along one side were rows of brand new bicycles, of all sizes and colors. We could have pointed to any of those bicycles and claimed them for “our” kids.
What matters for the heart
The problem was, our foster kids didn’t want new bicycles. They wanted their old ones back. The problem with that was that the bikes were at their mother’s house. And mama wasn’t about to have those bikes taken away without a fight. No one wanted to follow the paperwork necessary to have the bikes become legally theirs at our place.
We offered new bikes, but they didn’t want new bikes. For the life of me, I couldn’t understand (and still don’t) why those who could make the difference didn’t think it was important.
This was the second time we encountered this problem. A few years earlier, foster children living with us wanted their bikes back. We had bikes at our house, but they wanted theirs. Their bikes were a thirty-minute drive from us, and the folks who could have retrieved them for us didn’t take the time to make the trip. It was easier to provide brand new ones than to go to the trouble to give to these heartbroken kids what reminded them of home and belonging.
Giving FOR the heart of someone else
I’m saying all this to say that we need to think about gifts and about things of service we do for people. It’s not just about foster families; it can be any family. Whether it’s for folks we know well, or folks we hardly know at all, we need to give responsibly, and that involves giving for the heart.
Instead of choosing what we think they should want, we ought to listen to their hearts and give what means the most (to the kids and parents, not to us). I’m not talking about purchasing name brand items we’d never give our own kids. Nor am I implying we empty our checking accounts to buy anything a kid wants.
I’m talking about giving what is dear to a foster kids’ heart because it reminds him of home or of love even when we think little of that home, or giving to other children who need more care than what they receive on a daily basis.
Instead of assuming a family needs more games and toys or more clothes, how about asking first? With some of our foster kids, so many toys were given that we ended up giving some away. No kid needs three basketballs or two kitchen play sets. No child needs three jackets just because someone gives them. And there’s no kid in the world who needs twenty teddy bears. You’d think so, from the stuff we were given, and I’m sure it happens in non-foster families as well.
Long term giving for the heart
You can be certain if someone had thought to ask me, I’d have given suggestions, and all of them would have benefitted the foster kids. A coupon for a meal out or help with housecleaning, for example. A ready-to bake meal of the kiddos favorites that could be popped into the freezer for a night they needed to feel special. Tickets for admission to events, or even something as simple as a Dairy Dell ice cream cone speaks love to kids! That kind of help would certainly have freed me to have more time to read to and play with the kids.
It’s easy to throw money and things at a family and feel like we’ve done a good deed. We’re trying to be Good Samaritans, but failing because we’re not meeting the need. We also seem to think that once a year keeps us out of the Grinch’s grasp for another year. Families who need help need it more than just as Christmas – but that takes time. ‘Trouble is, some folks only want to contribute money instead of time.
Messy – but true – giving
Meeting a need is messier and dirtier than handing out green bucks. It takes more time, more energy, and more intention than opening a wallet or writing a check, yet that’s what it means to be giving for the heart. Whether it’s for a foster family, your neighbor or someone in your community, helping a family isn’t about what we want to do.
Next time you think you know just what a family needs, how about taking the time to think before you give? How about spending time with them so you can draw sound conclusions yourself? Or, how about just asking what would help the most instead of assuming you know?
Next time, be willing to go the extra mile to pick up a beat-up bicycle with the loose chain because that kid needs to feel some heart and some home this season when all his world is upside down. Next time, clear your calendar to get messy and dirty. That’s what giving for the heart requires a person to do. Is there any better way to show the love of a Savior who came to earth to get messy to save us? There’s no better way to pass on that love than getting down in the trenches like our Savior did, and giving for the heart.