On June 27th, my family took Austin, our son, to the United States Military Academy at West Point to drop him off and start what I hope will be an awesome career in the United States Army. Austin is a brilliant young man with great personality. He was precocious from the start and was always pushing the edge of the envelope in school, sports and many other aspects of life that easily landed him in situations not in good standing with his parents.
As I watched him walk away from us at West Point I asked God if what I did was right- all the work, the discussions, the lessons of life, and the teachings of right and wrong. The one thing that I knew was right became perfectly clear when he told me that he would never stray from the church.
He said it was his real home and when he needed to talk to someone his rock was always God. I felt reassured that his journey in life would be easier because he did have faith, a faith that was tested in many ways when he was growing up.
What do you teach your children? The golden rule? Do unto others…….? I thought about what Austin had to endure growing up. His life lessons were to be patient and forgiving in the face of his aggressors. He was a nerdy, pudgy kid and had to endure a lot. I wanted him to forgive and to realize that in his evolution, things would be better for him especially because he was forgiving. I remembered telling him during soccer games to not be intentionally cruel to opponents, not to hurt or crush the spirits of a defeated team and to be kind.
I remembered talking to him about a child that we witnessed stealing from a store in Texas. He had a low opinion of the kid and I told him not to judge because it was not his place to do so. God would be the one to judge. When the child was caught we offered to pay for the stolen item and the clerk let him go afterwards. The embarrassed child couldn’t look Austin in the eyes as he said, “Thanks.” and ran off. Austin said that he didn’t have to judge the kid. He judged himself and was embarrassed by his actions. I was so proud!
One thing we’ve tried to do as a family whenever possible is to help the poor that we meet. Sometimes the kids would get embarrassed when I would give money to the poor. Our point as parents has been not to throw money in a cup and quickly walk away. While we are far from perfect parents, our sincere hope has been that our children will see that every person we meet is opportunity to see Christ.
One day Austin finally told me he knew why we not only gave money to the poor we encountered but also tried to dialogue with them. He said he loved the mercy and the grace he felt when he did the same thing. It was the reward that God gives, the feeling that you did something good for your brother or sister.
I do admit: I long for his company. I miss that boy but I feel that I did what I was supposed to do to make his life a little better. I strove to give him the gift of God. Help them see Jesus. God’s mercy, his kindness and his love are the best possible gifts we could ever give our children. Give the gift to yours.