I’m really terrible about cleaning up the table after a meal. Plates and cups usually sit there until the next meal, when I clean everything up in order to put the next set of plates and cups down.
Last week we were out all day, so when we came home for dinner, everything was still on the table from breakfast. Kenna sat down in her seat before dinner was ready and went to drink the water that had been there since breakfast.
Without giving it adequate thought I said, “Wait! Let me get you some ‘fresh’ water.”
The next day, I handed Kenna her water bottle after it had sat out for about an hour. She started walking to the kitchen.
“Mommy, I’m going to dump this out so I can get FRESH water.”
Regret ran a mile deep at that moment, realizing I had inadvertently entered the notion in her head that she was entitled to waste water that wasn’t freshly poured. I told her not to dump it. A meltdown ensued.
“MOMMY! That’s not FAIR! It’s not FAIR that I don’t have fresh water!”
It was the first time the “it’s not fair” complaint has been filed in my home. I thought that would be reserved for the teen years. Alas, I launched into an unprepared explanation of how life isn’t fair, how millions of people don’t have ANY water…blah, blah, blah (you can guess the rest of the speech).
She looked at me like the proverbial deer in the headlight and I stopped my rant.
I walked her over to my computer and googled, “unclean water.” I found this picture of a man from Eritrea (an east African country bordering Ethiopia). Both Nathan and Kenna were absolutely enthralled by it.
The questions started flowing:
Mommy, who is that? What is he wearing? What is that water behind him? Why does he look sad? Is there dirt in the water? Will he drink the water? What is that wall?
I explained to them that this man was from a country called Eritrea and showed them where it is on a big world map we have. We discussed what a desert is and how it means there isn’t enough clean water for everyone to drink in countries like Eritrea. I told them that this man probably has to drink water that looks like the pool behind him, and asked if that looks like their water. They were as quiet and pensive as 3-year-olds can be. And then came my moment.
“Do you think it’s FAIR that you have clean water while this man, and many others, do not? Do you deserve to drink clean water more than him?”
They said no and got very quiet.
“Unfortunately the whole world is very unfair. God wants those who love Him, like our family, to help people who are sad like this man. We need to spend our time helping others and thanking God for the things we do have…like clean water. I want you to think of him before you dump water out to help you remember to be grateful.”
We talked about how we can help him (praying and donating money) and then continued our day.
I wouldn’t have known how impactful this moment was if they hadn’t asked questions about “the man from Eritrea” almost daily since then. The image of the man and the dirty water made it possible for me to show them something they otherwise could not comprehend from my words alone.
We have an amazing opportunity through the internet to find pictures from people and places all over the world. When your child claims, “it’s not fair,” there are literally millions of photo opportunities to talk about the things that are truly unfair in the world and our calling to help.
With no prompting at all from me, Kenna has started including this in her prayers: “…and please help the people from Eritrea to find food and water.” It brings tears to my eyes to even recount that. It represents the change and awareness that can come to a young heart from one simple yet powerful picture.