It was Saturday morning and the other youth director and I were taking a fairly good-sized group of elementary and middle-school kids caroling at the nursing homes in our community. The first stop we made was to the home where a couple of our elderly church members were living, so we planned to make their rooms our first stop. But when we walked into the building we found the lobby full of residents so we decided to brighten their morning with our cheery voices. And so we sang. We sang Up on the Housetop, Joy to the World, Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer, Silent Night and of course, we finished with a hearty rendition of We Wish You a Merry Christmas.
As soon as we finished the last note of our final song, one of women in the room who was sitting in front of the television, turned to the woman sitting next to her and said (in a loud voice), “I’m glad those *$*# kids stopped singing. I couldn’t hear the television.”
I am laughing as I write because I can still see the looks of shock on their faces. This was immediately followed by one-syllable comments of “Wha?”, “Huh?” “Uhhhh” which was then followed by pursed lips trying to hold in giggles. It didn’t work. But that was probably because I was laughing, too.We quickly regained our composure and left the room to sing for those we felt sure would be more appreciative. As we walked, down the hallway, the kids started talking about what had happened…
“Did she really mean that?”“No, I don’t think so. Old people are just like that sometimes.”
“Why didn’t she like our singing?”“Who knows? Maybe she has bad memories of Christmas or maybe she’s sad because no one comes to see her.”
“Or maybe she’s just a grouch.”“Maybe...probably.”
“You think?”“Oh, well, we didn’t mean to make her mad. Besides, it’s the thought that counts.”
“That’s right. We meant well.”They meant well. Their intentions were as pure as pure could be—to bring joy to elderly people at Christmas time—and no matter how it was perceived by some (or one), that really was what mattered. After making sure they understood they had done nothing wrong and that one person’s response should not keep them from trying to make people smile, we continued caroling and had a great time doing so.
But as I think about that day now, I also think about how many times as parents we take our children’s actions at face value rather than looking to the heart of the matter and their intentions.When they cook breakfast and set the toaster on fire do we only see burned toast or do we see an act of service out of love?
When we have to corral a run-away llama do we see a hassle or do we see a child who was trying to do extra chores because she wanted to help out more? (My kids know what I’m talking about.)When the orange towels fade onto white t-shirts, do we see a child that is trying to do more than they are capable of or do we see a child trying to help out while you are sick in bed with the flu?
Are you getting the message here?Our children are not perfect. Sometimes they make messes and mistakes in the process of doing something with the purest and best of intentions to help…serve…love.
The question is this: Do we see past the mess and into their heart or do we leave the impression that we are just waiting for our children to ‘stop singing so we can hear the television’?