Saturday, April 23, 2011

More for Less

Everything was going along swimmingly.  I got home from a decent day at work.  The kids were playing well together.  They chatted and giggled happily about who knows what.  Much to my children's delight, I announced that I would soon be making my infamous breakfast dinner.  Thus, with a little time to spare, I sat down for a little "me" moment, catching up on the day and others via my "social network" of choice.  (Actually, my social network of choice would have nothing to do with computers and everything to do with a face to face visit some place really comfy.)

And then it started.  Slowly, but surely, the picking began.  You know, honestly, I can't even recall what all the jabs were about or why they started.  But they came nonetheless.  Little knocks at one another, not necessarily all intentional, but causing frustration in one another...and causing resentment to build between one another. 
Can you imagine these guys ever fighting?  I hear the resounding "YES" from those who have seen it in action. Ha!

You know, I find it such a fine line - knowing when to step in and knowing when to let them work it out themselves.  Sometimes I know I jump in far too soon, while other times I probably let it go on a little too long.  It is, perhaps, a fine which I have not mastered.  At any rate, one too many comments laced with a touch of poison and I jumped in with my own voice, raised louder than I intended.  Before I knew it, the peace of home had been misplaced, even if only momentarily, by the selfish intents of 3 little people and, perhaps, 1 larger person.

Thankfully, it wasn't too long before attitudes were adjusted, hearts were better aligned, and peace was generally restored.  I know that some of the change was due, in part, to the kids' desire to please their mama.  But I also know that much of the improvement was because they wanted to watch a movie after our pancake feast.  They knew that things needed to shape up if they wanted to earn this privilege.  Yet, I made sure that I talked through with them the impact of hurt feelings and broken relationships within a family.  I wanted apologies to be sincere and changes to be true.  "Sorry doesn't mean anything unless you try to change your behaviour", the broken record played.  However, I knew, at some level, that some of the improvement was based on the "first...then" principle. First you shape up and treat each other right. Then you get a movie night.  At it's core, I am doubtful that the change of heart was completely out of altruistic sibling love (if you have ever been there, I'm sure you are catchin' my drift)...and, at this stage of the game, I wouldn't expect it to be.

As my brain would have it, this little series of interactions led me to think something like this:  How we treat others when we have nothing to gain is the true measure how much we value the relationship and, in reality, who we are underneath.  Anyone can treat someone well if they think there is something to gain from it.  It takes character and integrity to consistently treat someone with respect, care, compassion, and dignity whether or not there is something to gain. 

As I started to write the last sentence, I almost wrote, "...whether or not there is something (other than relationship itself) to gain."  But then I realized that even expecting a relationship is an anticipation of something to gain, therefore, something for me. The way I treat complete strangers, simple acquaintances, and even those I will never meet face to face, speaks volumes about my character and the condition of my heart.

Just imagine if everyone treated each they encountered in a "do unto others, as you would have done unto you" sort of way, without the purpose of getting something in return.  What a radical idea!  Radical, perhaps, but certainly not new.  It was, in fact, Jesus who said "Do unto others as you would have them do to you" when he was giving his famous Sermon on the Mount.  And it was Paul (in Philippians 2) who said, "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others."

I can only imagine the peace that would come if the world adopted those principles.  I can hope and pray for that kind of peace in my home, desiring that each of us (big and small) would adopt and daily live out those principles.  I know the peace and satisfaction I experience when I choose to do unto others in humility.  And, although I can't make my children do nothing out of selfish ambition, I can sure try to model it for them.  I can't make my co-workers treat one another and all students as they themselves would want to be treated, but I can try to live in such a way that others might see this lived out through me.  And, when I see these principles being displayed by a family member, a friend, a co-worker, or even a stranger, I can offer acknowledgement and encouragement for a moment well lived.

Food packing for Impact Lives in the fall.
I am far from perfect when it comes to consistently showing care and good treatment to others while expecting absolutely nothing in return.  My human nature longs for a little least a crumb from the return.  And yet, He's not finished with me yet.  Maybe one day I will get to the point where I altruistically give my all to others with no expectation of gain, but I kind of doubt it will happen this side of heaven...though wouldn't it be cool if it did!  In the meantime, step by step, I hope to move in this direction of giving more out of selfless ambition.  I long to leave a legacy of living in such a way, to the glory of God and for the benefit of others.  Only time will tell.

As I wrap up my writing, it is my pleasure to note that my children ended their night well. Mater's Tales was the film du jour and enjoyed by all.  Popcorn was the tasty treat.  Elly decided to have a sleep over in Ben's room, a fortnightly event in our home.  The kids are now fast asleep.  Peace reigns in the Castor home once again.

A foreshadow of the slumber party friendship these two would have...taken in the winter/spring of 2007

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