Plate 21 is one of those coffee shops one would expect to find in the arts district of a large metropolitan area. There we sat sipping hot chai tea on a late fall, damp, cold Toledo day.
Our good friend was visiting with my wife and me as we caught up on numerous aspects of each others’ lives. This is a place we enjoy breaking away to, especially with someone so special. As we laughed together and simply shared the experiences of living, the conversation drifted into the more serious.
Our friend is a single mother with two adopted children. The story of her journey is not only amazing, but a testimony to what the Lord can do in the life of someone who is yielded to him.
As she shared with us the celebration of how her family is doing as they have conquered a number of transitions, the conversation shifted to Christmas.
We had not known some of the details of their first Christmas together, but as she shared about her Haitian daughter’s experience that first year I was caught off guard.
This child had grown up in poverty, had experienced extreme loss in the earthquake that rocked the nation, and also was living in an orphanage -- because her biological mother cared so much for her that she knew she could not provide for her needs.
As this child observed the numerous gifts given to the children here in the United States, she asked her mother, “Mom, why is it that Santa loves the children in the United States more than the children of Haiti?”
When our friend asked her daughter why she believed that to be true, she said, “Because he brings them more gifts when they already have so much.”
WOW, how convicting ... an assessment of a situation that could only be made by someone outside the circle of an event. What a profound statement ... the degree of which this child was not even aware.
This daughter is a practical helper, a hard worker, a compassionate soul ... someone more interested in others than herself and someone who would give what she had to you if it would make your life better.
Did she naively and unashamedly confront us for the way we use our resources, while some people both here and abroad can barely feed their family? Did she also have something to say about the outcome of over-gratifying our children (i.e., that they may not see the world as she did)?
Her assessment of our Christmas experience reminded me of a time I had been visiting a city on a mission trip.
After a week there I was now viewing it from a mountaintop. The new outlook was much different than my first week there.
Sometimes in life, the way one regards something can shift such that it alters the experience forever. A different point of view drastically changes how we see some things.
Such was my response to this insightful child! My wife and I had already been trying to morph our own Christmas experience with our grandchildren into something more “other” centered.
But after I heard this quote from the child who once had nothing (except the things in life that count) it caused great pause.
Living in a nation of entitlement, with many people more focused on themselves than others, with compassion a byword that is seldom practiced, and empathy often absent in relationships with others, I wondered if there is something we could learn from this wise young Haitian.
Perhaps she understands the Gospel of Jesus better than those of us here in the comfort of the land of the Stars and Stripes.
Have we been lulled into a place of complacency with the gift of prosperity? Do we live in a material existence that does not consider the consequences of that lifestyle?
I wondered ... what are we teaching our children? I want my grandchildren to have the values and kind heart of this beautiful, kind, smiley-eyed Haitian treasure. I think she can teach us a lot!