[Part Three of a three-part story about what happened when my kids decided we should “Help Haiti” in 2010.]
Recap of the previous two posts about Compassion and the Earthquake in Haiti: Five years ago a catastrophic 7.0 quake struck Haiti. My five year old twins heard about it and wanted to help. This was new. We tried to listen and equip them to try something. We did a little bake and craft sale with a $500 goal. Our friends, neighbors, school, church, and facebook community responded with lavish generosity. We became a bridge for sending $33,000 to Haiti that year. It was completely unexpected. [For the full scoop read “Compassion Catapult – The Earthquake in Haiti” and “Contagious Compassion – The Earthquake in Haiti.”]
Whenever people hear this crazy story they have lots of great questions:
Why do you think this happened?
Why did your kids want to do something?
Why did the school want to help?
Why did you keep saying Yes?
Why was it so contagious?
Why did it get so big?
I have the same questions. I think these are deep Soul questions. Based in deep Soul hunger. And I think the questions and hunger are the same for all of us.
I have some answers. But first I must make some things clear. The outpouring of Compassion wasn’t from a certain quality of parenting. It wasn’t from a special knack for witty facebook posts. It wasn’t from having perfect children. It wasn’t from right choices or hard work.
I think there is a reason my kids wanted to help Haiti on Tuesday, January 10, 2010. And I think it’s because of what happened on Monday, January 9th.
On a quiet wintery night after long busy day, Chris took over the whole bedtime routine for our three kids. After putting little Greta in her crib, Caleb and Zoë snuggled in for a story with Dad. They were especially interested in stories from The Big Picture Story Bible and asked lots questions – “what does it mean that Jesus said he could rebuild the temple in 3 days?” “why does that lamb have blood on it?” “what does it mean to be born again?” I’m so glad laid-back Chris had tuck-in duty that night! They had never asked me questions like that before.
Chris sensed something stirring. He listened. He gave simple, short answers. It’s not something we had ever directly talked about with them, but then Chris went for it: He asked Zoë and Caleb if they would like to talk to Jesus, ask him to forgive their sins, and ask him help them to follow him every day. He wasn’t expecting any clear responses to such big, weird, intangible questions. There was no hurry. He was just throwing it out there.
But my kids each wanted Jesus that night. They prayed. Chris told them it was a very, very special night because something amazing had happened. He told them we’d been quietly praying for them since before they were born, that they would choose Jesus someday, and that it was the most important thing they could ever do in their whole lives. The kids went to bed smiling.
I wrote the date and a note in the book so they could remember that night whenever that story was read. At breakfast the next day I put a birthday candle in each of their cinnamon raisin English muffins. We sang “Happy Birthday” to help explain how their souls were given a new start that night, like being born again. Looking at the candles I talked about the little flame inside their hearts now that Jesus was inside, and how they could guard that flame and help it grow as they learned about and loved Jesus. It was a sweet morning. Greta cheered and shouted “more!” when we sang.
The earthquake in Haiti happened later that day. Caleb and Zoë noticed me tearing up on our 5 minute drive home from school when NPR reported on the quake. They asked many, many questions. That night at bedtime the kids asked more questions about Haiti curled into me on my bed. We prayed for our usual things, and I added, “Lord, please show us what you’d like the Fritz Family to do to help Haiti.”
Caleb sat up and said, “I want to send LOTS of food, Mama.”
And Zoë said, “That’s a good idea, Caleb, but we need to do a >program<.”
I asked Zoë what a “program” was and she said, “Mama, you’ll go to churches on Saturdays and Sundays and talk to them about Haiti. Then they’ll want to give money to help them. Then you’ll bring it down to Haiti and they’ll get stronger and help the other people.” I quietly asked her who “the other people” were. She replied, “Haiti can help, like, Mexico, and Mexico can help Africa, and Africa can help another country. See, the whole world will be better if we help Haiti get stronger.”
I was speechless. We had never talked about anything like this ever.
I asked Zoë where she heard this great idea and she said, “Well, Mama, you just asked God to give us ideas, and this is the idea I got.” So was she telling me the idea was, like, from God?
Caleb told me he was a very good builder and that he wanted to go build a house in Haiti so kids wouldn’t be in the street. We prayed for little babies without mommies and mommies without babies and for broken bones.
My heart was swollen with love and gratitude and pain all at once.
What had just happened?
I think God was changing their hearts. I think when they asked Jesus to come into their hearts the night before, he actually did. I think they were being transformed.
I know this sounds so mystical and outlandish. But I don’t know how else to explain it. When we ask Jesus to come into our lives, at any age, everything changes. My kids started becoming different people the very next day – curious about others, talking to God expecting answers, and coming up with big ideas out of nowhere.
And it didn’t stop that night. They continued to ask big questions and expect big things all through the ever-growing Haiti fundraisers. To rebuild a house cost $2000, when thousands more kept coming in, they asked, “Mom, it’s not just a house for Haiti – it’s a whole city!” They believed they were making a difference. There was a lot of spontaneous dancing.
They never asked to keep any of the money handed to them. That didn’t feel normal. Kids love to get new stuff. When Caleb found a quarter on the sidewalk he shouted, “More for Haiti!” and plunked it in the jar at home instead of wanting to buy candy. During dinner one night, Zoë told us, “You know what I would do with $100? I would buy a hundred $1 toys for kids that have no toys. And I would give them most of my toys, too.” So when her next birthday came she asked for money for Haiti instead of presents for herself. All her idea. (Caleb wanted presents and that was 100% okay with us.)
Please note: There was/is still plenty of bickering, crying, lying, and whining. Our home didn’t suddenly become a happy musical where we danced through our days and laughed off problems. Life was/is still hard.
When we finally put away the sprinkles, glitter, and poster board in 2010, the Compassion stayed. Jesus had moved in.
So what’s the answer to all those questions? The simplest way to say it is: Jesus.
Compassion took root in our family and our community because of Jesus.
Of course there are millions of people doing amazing compassionate things that don’t care about Jesus at all. So many of the people that participated in our fundraisers didn’t like Jesus and thought Christians were terrible. But they were hungry to do something good. They wanted to help people. Their hearts were broken by deep suffering and they were compelled to act. I think that was Jesus in them, calling them to love.
I think so many kids at school scoured the junk drawer for spare change because they wanted to be a part of something good. I kept saying Yes to the requests for help because I couldn’t stand thinking about an elderly woman sleeping in the dirt in front of her leveled house. More people forwarded facebook posts and sent money because the hope was contagious. Friends and strangers got swept up in the idea that change was possible in a place as desperate as Haiti.
I think Jesus is at the root of those desires, that sense of justice, that hope, and that vision. His deep, unchanging, relentless love for us (his compassion for us) is contagious. When we begin to grasp that love we begin to copy it. And when we do, we seem to be rewarded with a heaping measure of contentment and hope.
Our family lives in this by having a Family Compassion Focus each year. We look for new ways to love and serve people we didn’t know before. Every year has been so different. We’ve focused on Orphans, Clean Water, and Homelessness. Our kids keep coming up with unique ideas. Chris and I keep trying to stay out of the way. This year the kids voted for Haiti again. Who knows what will happen.
I just read this whole thing to my Zoë, home from 5th grade with a touch of the flu. Over her bowl of rice she laughed remembering how fun it was to make all the Valentine ornaments and to give her birthday party to Haiti. I asked her why she still keeps wanting to do all this Compassion stuff. She said,
“Because it feels good inside, Mom. It feels right. It feels warm.”
You are loved.
I hope you have tons of questions about Jesus, your Soul, and Compassion. It’s never too late. You can ask them in the comments below. If you are looking for more ideas, I have some on the page called Soul. I really hope you find what you’re looking for.
© Aimee Fritz and Family Compassion Focus, 2014-2015