I made my 12 year old daughter sweep the kitchen floor yesterday. She hates to sweep. Honestly there are not many chores that she likes to do. Welcome to my world kid. She swept up a nasty pile of crumbs, dirt, dead grass and who knows what else and asked, "How does this happen everyday?" That was just from lunch... It has to be done every meal or you won't be able to take a step without squishing cold, soggy oat meal between your toes. Before children I may have swept my kitchen once every three months... I had no idea how good I had it.
This afternoon after school was over and it was time to do chores, with dishes piled in the sink, toys all over the floor and laundry to wash, dry and put away that same 12 year old girl surprised me by saying, "Ugh, the floor's a mess again... you want me to sweep?" Not instead of other chores, but along with what she was already going to do. After she was done she said, "Man, this floor could use a mop." She didn't offer to do that, butttttt she noticed.
I know you know the feeling of never being done with housework and wondering IF anyone notices what you have done OR what still needs to be done, because one thing is for certain it is NEVER done. She noticed. She offered help. WHY? Because yesterday after sweeping the floor and thinking about what a great job she had done, she experienced the frustration of seeing that very same job needing to be done AGAIN. She felt empathy for mom... She took a walk in my shoes, she experienced what I have to go through and it moved her to want to help.
There have been many times in my life that I have been asked to do something I didn't want to do. I have pouted and whined... to no avail. My Heavenly Father is always teaching me new lessons in this life. Some for training. Some lessons to teach me empathy. None that I actually willingly agree to... just being honest.
For instance, my recent past history with anxiety and depression. I didn't want to go through that. I have always been a happy person, who wakes up everyday with fresh perspective, but I couldn't seem to make myself be that person. In the past I couldn't care less what people thought about me, but suddenly I didn't want to leave my house, because I was consumed with anxiety about people. I hated that. Thankfully, God's faithful hand is leading me through that murky place and on the other side I have much more empathy and compassion for people who are in that place... sometimes you can't just snap out of it. I didn't know that until I had been there.
Right now I'm in another place I really didn't want to be. My 6 year old has to go on a gluten-free diet. Yep, I've joined that fad. I'm not sure what I will learn yet, but I already feel compassion for people who can't eat everything that they want, all the time without adverse reactions in their body... I never even thought about how that would be for my friends who were struggling with family members that have food allergies, but here we are. I'd rather not.
Or a struggling marriage, finances, wayward children... When we go through these things we learn, we grow, we become more compassionate. For every hard thing we experience we add one more layer of walking in another's shoes. We grow. We look around and say, "how can I help you?"
I'm watching this happen in my older children. The things they don't want to do, the chores that I require of them are developing in them empathy and compassion, the sense that this life is not all about them. There are other people and those other people have a lot on their plate and these kids have a desire to help where they can.
Last week when my husband was away on a business trip the two oldest children took it upon themselves to clean the backyard and the patio. They cleaned out the flower beds and filled 3 huge, black trash bags with old, dead bushes. They moved patio furniture and swept, cleaned tables and put it all back together nicely. I didn't ask them to do any of this. They are learning to look around and offer a hand. That's a lesson a person can only learn from experience.
So, right now I don't know what you are going through... IF you are like me there are things that you wish you didn't have to do. You may wish everything could be different right now, but God knows what we need. He knows that we would never willingly grow or change or even care what the people around us are going through, therefore He provides opportunities to learn and tough situations to teach us how best to love the people around us.
"Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforts us in our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort that we ourselves are comforted of God." 2 Cor. 1:3-4
From now on that girl can no longer be oblivious to smashed scrambles eggs on the floor. She may not always choose to lend a hand, but she will know a little bit more about what is means to walk in my shoes...