Every weekday morning, I take my 2 year-old son, Micah, to school. School has been the place where Micah could satisfy his growing social needs while mommy and daddy get some quiet time for a few hours each day. It’s a win-win situation in every sense.
There is a definite routine to our morning trek. We eat breakfast, get dressed, kiss mommy and baby Isla goodbye and head downstairs with the umbrella stroller in my left hand and Micah rested on my right arm. Once downstairs, we say “buenos dias” and “hasta luego” to our building manager, Juan, and then I strap Micah in the stroller… and away we go!
We then say “hola, buenos dias” to about a dozen people on our way to school. There’s Mari, the street-parking guide along with her husband. There’s Gabriel, Juan, and another friend who sells helium-filled balloons. There’s the 3-4 valet parking attendants at the restaurant across the street. Goyo is the guy who sells “super tortas” in front of the bank and then the rest are random people who take notice of Micah in the stroller and flash a friendly smile on their brisk walk to work.
It takes about 20 minutes to walk to school. I say a few more “hola, buenos dias”s to the teachers and receptionists at the school, kiss Micah, tell him I love him and let the teachers whisk him away.
Now when I pick Micah up from school, the routine is repeated but in reverse. However, this time, there is an old couple on the street who I presume to be of indigenous origin by the language that they speak. It’s difficult for me to give money to the poor when I see them on the same exact part of the street during very particular hours, only to not see them there on holidays and off-hours. It seems a little “iffy” but maybe that’s just me.
In any case, I got tired (or guilty, perhaps?) of ignoring them so one day I decided I would have Micah hand them some money from the stroller. The purpose of this was three-fold: 1) a few measly pesos from a child seems to be a more acceptable offering than from a grown man, 2) it’s the cute thing to do, and 3) life lessons at the age of 2 seems about right. The lady with the cup appreciated our small offering, we all shared a smile and proceeded home. I then affirmed Micah in his willingness to share and told him that this is what we’re supposed to do when we see people in need.
The next day, the indigenous couple was in the same spot. Using my “this is iffy” logic, I decided to give them a smile (nothing more) and go our merry way toward home. Besides, we already gave them money– this can’t be a daily thing, can it? As soon as I passed them, my son yells out, “money, daddy! money!” I stopped the stroller, stooped to his level and asked him, “what do you mean son? You think we should give them money?” He says, “yeah.”
I pulled out my wallet, handed him a few pesos and backed up the stroller so that he could deposit the small gift into the lady’s cup again. Their gratitude was once again, very evident. We smiled and headed home.
The next day, the same thing. It’s become very clear that my 2-year-old son is not going to let me just walk by these people who clearly have a need. What I considered a one-time lesson has now become a daily practice. Even if the teacher doesn’t practice what he preaches on a daily basis, the pupil will not let the opportunities pass. Touche, my son, touche.
My dream for my children would be that they would be the Best Versions of Us x 1000. That’s high-level math right there.
It’s no cliche to say that our children often teach us. They are capable of showing us a way of life that is beautiful, generous, loving, and filled with wonder.
One day, our family will make our way back to the suburbs where the streets are swept daily and the vagabonds are met more on TV than in real life. For now, I am grateful that we live in the City where the tension to give and serve is propelled with a daily opportunity. It’s uncomfortable, it’s trying, and it is a test of what we really believe and practice.
I’m thankful that at age 2, Micah gets it. It’s not rocket science, it’s not a judgment call, it’s not a curriculum you study for weeks with a small group; it is a here and now. “Money, Daddy! Money!” You have money, they don’t. It’s simple, isn’t it? Drop it in their cup and love them in simple, real ways… Duh!
Thanks, buddy. You put your daddy to shame but you also make me unbelievably proud.
How ’bout that? My 2 year-old advocate for the poor, folks.