There are few things greater in this world than the smile of a child. Whether it is your son, daughter, niece, neighbor, or the child of a complete stranger, the smiles of children are precious. As a father, I look forward to seeing the smiles and hearing the laughter of my two beautiful girls each and every day. No day is complete without the sight of those pearly whites that give me such joy. I will do whatever (yes, I mean whatever) it takes to get that smile. I will be as silly as I need to be to get it. I will annoy them as long as it takes to make it happen. Some days it is hard work, other days it is very simple. Those smiles are important to me and nothing will change that.
For many children, showing that we care is enough to make them smile. They crave our attention. They want our time. They thirst for our love. They just want someone to take interest. This week we had the opportunity to brighten the faces of many children in our community. Children who do not have it easy. Children who live in an area where violence is a reality. A neighborhood where it isn’t safe to go outside after dark. Children whose parents work hard to make it through each day in an attempt to survive. Children who sacrifice the joys of childhood because they lack abundance. This week we showed these children that we care.
For the last three years Elevate City Church has hosted a Back To School Bash at Weisser Park in the heart of our city. The event is an expression of love for those that may need it. This year, more than 500 children were given backpacks filled with school supplies. They ate hotdogs, popcorn, and popsicles. They jumped around inside inflatable bouncy houses and they had their faces painted. They received free books and bookmarks. They smiled, smiled, and smiled. For a few hours on sunny Saturday afternoon, the stresses and challenges of life seemed to vanish. Yes, we helped them with much-needed school supply assistance, but that was not all. We gave them an opportunity to enjoy being kids. Children worry about the issues that mom and dad struggle with. They do. And we need to understand that. They are very observant to the world around them and we must work to free them from that worry.
As for us, we volunteered in a multitude of capacities. The girls painted faces. Erica helped with backpack registration and disbursement. I helped in whatever way needed. Most of all, we invested time in the kids. We high-fived them, held them, hugged them, and helped them. We even participated in a few sprint races with them (this old man was undefeated). Mainly, we invested time in them. We, along with the entire ECC Serve Team, showed them that they are loved.
The children of our communities around the world need to know that we care. Our OWN children need to know this too. This, I have to work on. You see, I am not a great parent. I make a lot of mistakes and miss so many opportunities. I get so focused on positively impacting the world around me that I forget to ensure that my own children are happy. I am not perfect. Actually, I am no where close to it. My girls are teenagers who have their own challenges and I at times am not present. That has to change. I must be a light in my own children’s world of darkness. I must be present when they need me. They must be my priority. They must always know that I care.
I challenge you to do the same. Pause a moment and look around. If you have children, are you there for them? Are you present when you really need to be? I want to be a better parent and I hope that you do too. Invest time in YOUR children. Invest time in ALL children. They need us more than we know. Don’t fall victim to excuses and busy schedules. Focus on putting a smile on the face of a child this week!