I don’t remember the exact age I was when I realized that some children don’t have parents, and some children have handicaps, and some children are even abused by adults they trust. But I know that I didn’t really think about these things very often when I was a child. I didn’t question them much, or ask God why, or deal with these issues on a daily basis. In many ways, I was insulated from these harsh realities. In many ways, I grew up inside a bubble.
I know that my “bubble” was a gift from God as I was raised in a family that loved me, that had a home, and that nurtured and encouraged me. I was raised in a comfortable, upper middle-class white suburb. We did help the poor each Christmas, and I was raised to serve God and to serve others…values that shaped who I am… but dealing with life outside the “bubble” wasn’t part of my daily routine.
My children are growing up in a vastly different world from the one that I knew. They are growing up outside the bubble. They are being raised amongst many who are different from them…and they are the minorities. They are also being confronted with the harsh realities of life in their early years.
They’ve met children with severe handicaps in a country with very few resources for such children. They’ve seen children their own ages (3 and 5) begging on the street for food. They’ve met children who have been abandoned by their parents, or who have lost their parents. They’ve met teenagers who desperately want to be included in everything we do as a family because they never got to do things with their parents when they were children. They’ve also met drug addicts, and homeless people without ever having any presuppositions about drug addicts and homeless people. These guys are just their friends.
These are the people that we serve. This is the ministry God has called us too. My children have questions. “Why does that family have trash bags for walls?” “Why does that four year old need to be held like a baby?” “Where is that girl’s parents?” “Why does that boy live on the street?” “Why are we bringing that man food?” These are questions they simply ask as they observe their world. And outside the bubble they are no easy answers.
Sometimes I’ve questioned how it will shape their lives to see things that are hard for many adults to process at such tender ages. But I also see that outside the bubble, they automatically see themselves as part of the solution. If it rains, our daughter immediately asks when we will take food to those who have mud in their homes. If we drive by one of the local street kids, our son wants to roll down the window and talk to him.
I’m not saying that this life is for everyone. Everyone needs to live the life that God has called their family to live. But I am saying that that this is the life for us. My kids are growing up outside the bubble, and I wouldn’t want it any other way.