As A Parent

As a parent, I always hear the slow ticking of the clock on the years I have remaining where my children are… children. It may seem a bit bleak, but, really, it helps preserve my focus on the most important fixture in my life. It is easy to become frustrated by endless questions and constant reminders, but, one day, they will go out into the world and need us a little less. So, we are always looking for new adventures and experiences to help shape our children and create fond memories. This summer, we decided on a visit to “The Waterpark Capital of the World”: Wisconsin Dells.

We had spent four days soaking in the sun, throwing ourselves down ridiculously gratifying water slides and stuffing our bellies with local fare. We thought our three children would, at some point, breakdown into an overstimulated puddle of…well…a hot mess. Instead they skipped from one glorious experience to another, fell asleep within a nanosecond of their head greeting the pillow, and they woke with renewed energy for the day. My husband and I looked at each other several times throughout our journey with a knowing “this is the life” gaze. Then we ran out of sunscreen.

The red van was parked at the last stall, at the far end of the supermarket. I could see bins of clothes pushed against the back window, and a dusty license plate that confirmed they were a long way from home. The man stood with a sign that read, “Food, water, anything will be helpful”. There was heaviness to the way he held the sign, as though shame shackled him. A fragile-looking woman was seen near him, encouraging a toddler-size boy into the back seat of the van. Our eldest son read the sign and exclaimed, “We need to help those people.” Our five-year-old quickly agreed, and my husband reassured them with a, “You bet, guys.”

We bought breakfast food, water, fruit and those squeeze-packets of organic fruit sauce that toddlers seem to love. As we drove towards the family, a young girl, in a car well past its prime, handed the man some money. He was visibly overcome with emotion, and the woman, still near the child, placed her hand on her heart and mouthed, “thank you.” The kids grew quiet as we pulled closer, intently watching as I rolled down the window and explained that we bought them breakfast. My husband handed what little cash we had with us to the man. My chest tightened, and I felt the tell-tale signs that I was close to tears. The man accepted our gift with genuine gratitude, and I could see the woman had succumbed to her own tears. As we left, another car approached, ready to respond to their need.

With the easy access to social media, and countless stories of people giving selflessly to others, I feel the climate is slowly shifting towards embracing social responsibility. One act of kindness can make a world of difference. This is one of the oldest lessons of mankind. Along with family adventures, we have always emphasized the importance of being “citizens” of this world and that we are not the family that ignores people in need. Along with fond memories, it is my hope that our children carry this lesson with them throughout their lives.

Genesis Alexander