We raised 24 children in foster care over the course of two years. At any given time we had up to 8 children in our home. Since we don’t have children of our own it is hard to compare raising someone else’s children to raising your own. But, no doubt, it was the most challenging thing we have done in our lives.
When you raise children, whether your own or not, you come to live with a generalized anxiety. There is never enough time to do what needs to be done. The house is always dirty. The lawn is always a mess. A child is always doing something that requires attention today that was not required yesterday.
It can be nerve-racking to raise children. And when you start in the middle of a child’s life you can expect to multiple this anxiety by a factor of anywhere between five to ten.
Yard Work Takes the Backseat
This is why we decided to do yard work for a family in Boise, Idaho that was fostering three children. Well, that and the fact that we actually missed doing yard work. If you can imagine that?!
On any given day it is easy to neglect yard work in the face of other tasks:
* Prepare 3+ meals per day, per child (hoping they will eat them)
* Wake, dress and drop off (on time) for school/daycare
* Medication distributed (and taken) and accounted for
* Clean kitchen (at least enough to cook the next meal)
* Clean bathrooms (at least enough to meet sanitary guidelines)
As husband and wife we hardly had time to say hello to each other in the course of a day. What’s yard work?
The Labor of Love
In the course of five hours we pulled enough weeds and raked enough leaves to fill twenty trash bags. We trimmed vines that were growing out of control and cut the grass. We even cleaned up the back patio enough that the family could come home and enjoy dinner on the back lawn.
Of course the work was not without its frustrations. Roots wouldn’t pull up. Lawn mowers and blowers would not start. Rakes broke at the handle.
But in serving others in such ways we have learned to look past the little difficulties. We try to see the bigger picture in everything we do to help others.
We could work around the roots. A neighbor had a lawn mower we could borrow. There was another rake in the shed.
Every problem has its own solution if we searched for it. Sometimes it just requires a little creativity or, at the most, a little extra elbow grease.
Every House, Every Driveway
When you travel full-time as we do you start to miss community. It becomes easier to look back on moments when you could have been a better neighbor or friend. We don’t serve others on this journey out of regret or compulsion. But the hindsight makes it easier to find the need in others.
Every yard we pass now potentially has a house full of foster children living inside of it. Every driveway with a dirty car or a broken street light might be home to an elderly person without the means or ability to tend to it.
We can’t serve everyone. We can’t even serve some people all of the time. But we can make the effort, from time to time, to serve some people some of the time.
We call this “traveling with purpose.” And we hope to inspire you to look for opportunities to serve others in creative ways. Whether you’re traveling halfway around the world or walking the dog through your neighborhood, there is always somebody in need just around the corner.
Keep your eyes peeled. Look for the opportunity to do something good for someone you may never meet. For if we act kindly in exchange for gratitude, one could argue there is little kindness in the deed at all.
We never met the family for which we served. And we’re kind of glad it worked out this way. I think it would have created an unnecessary sense of compulsion on our part to serve them because we knew them. And maybe there would have been a pressured sense of gratitude on their part to thank us excessively.
The way it worked out, we simply did a job at hand because it needed to be done. Now they can get back to worrying about the meals and the wake-ups and the getting to places on time. We can’t help with those things. But at least the weeds are laid low for a little while!
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