We have 3 kids in our neighborhood that we have been trying to love on for a couple of years. Two of them live with their grandma and her boyfriend because their mom is strung out on drugs and an incompetent mother. The third child lives in the same house but he's the son of the boyfriend. They live in a house for low income people, and spend the days as soon as they get out of school circling the neighborhood on their bikes looking for anyone to give them attention. Sometimes they show up on our doorstep because they are locked out of the house. In my mind, this is a beautiful opportunity to love on someone who really needs it. In reality, it's a lot more messy than that.
I get it that a crappy home life doesn't tend to produce well mannered children. I do. And I'm really compassionate-most of the time. But sometimes, like when they shove my little peanut in the mud, steal from us, and generally be rude, disrespectful, ungrateful, and try to lock me out of my house; I really struggle with the whole compassion thing. It's a heck of a lot easier to show love with a checkbook and pay for soccer, and Christmas presents, then it is to have them at my house every day. I can hand out after school snacks and those kinds of things just fine, but it gets really hard to love someone who takes what you give, and always asks for more. In my mind, they would be grateful and ask why on earth we are being so kind, and want to change their behaviour. In reality, they are rarely grateful, and for some reason have come to expect that we will just do things for them.
I hear the way their caregivers treat them, and I understand why they don't want to be at their house. You would think that would make it easier for me to really love them. And I can pull off "nice"pretty well. But love? Mother Teresa I am not, apparently.
On Easter, Aidan and Chloe dug through their stuff to find treasures to put in plastic eggs and hide for our neighbors. They pulled out their own coins and treasured Lego pieces and gum. Chloe had at first protested that they didn't deserve it. And she was exactly right, but none of us deserved Easter. Two of the children reacted with the sort of glee that makes you so happy to have given. One of the boys, however, sat on the stoop and complained the whole time that he didn't get what he wanted, and it wasn't fair.
And in that moment, I saw clearly that sometimes that is exactly how I behave. Ungrateful, and sitting on the step whining about what someone else has, instead of being thankful for what I didn't deserve, but received anyway.
And as for loving my neighbor, sometimes it's darn difficult. Sometimes, I have trouble liking my neighbor, much less loving them. But we keep trying. And maybe someday, we'll get it right. Obviously I'm not in line for sainthood. But I am in the line of messy, screwed up people, who are trying their best to follow Christ, sometimes falling on our faces, and sometimes getting it right--but mostly just keeping on trying.