Well, it’s summertime again at Cane Creek. Shalom and Shoshanna each have their outside work to do and plenty of chores at home. But there is always time for fun, especially now that we have the Russian orphans back with us for the summer.
It is pleasure beyond belief to share your life with two 12-year-old boys and a 16-year-old girl who need a family. We are fishing and swimming in the creek. They camped on the river this weekend, and last week the girls took the boys on a two-day float trip down another river.
Deb and I are once again “Big Papa” and “Big Mama.” I am learning all over again what it is like to be constantly responsible for developing souls. They watch your every move. They interpret every attitude you portray. They analyze your motives and weigh the value of every event. I have become aware that in reflection of them, I, too, weigh my attitudes and actions. Without any kids around, I am my own person. My time is mine. My wife and older daughters are well past forming their world-views. I don’t have to perform for them. But these little guys are just now cementing their values—deciding what life has to offer and what they have to offer it. Can they trust other people? Who will be their role models? Which way will they seek to develop? Will they be honest and walk in truth, or will they walk on the truth to gain an advantage?
I have tested them. When I have found something broken or out of place, I have asked, “Did you do this?” So far they have been completely honest with me. When I found our pet snake dead in the bottom of the herb pond, I fished it out and did an autopsy to determine the cause of its demise at such a young age. Out of its belly rolled a BB, and I am sure it did not die from eating it. It was just a pretty water snake that we found in the creek and placed in the herb pond. Deb was not really fond of it, but I found it amusing to have my own wild snake. The boys were unaware that I had discovered the corpse, so I was able to test them under the most favorable circumstances, to see if they would lie. Later that day I quietly and without any emotion asked them if they had ever shot at our pet snake. Not knowing it was dead, it would have been easy for them to deny it, but one of the boys looked guilty and said, “I did.” I said, “Well, you are a good shot. It’s dead.” And then I explained to him that I would rather he not kill our pet snakes. I then followed it up with a brief explanation that not many things upset me, but if they ever lied to me I would be very upset. I told them to always tell the truth and we would get along just fine. The whole encounter took less than 90 seconds, but we all learned a little more about each other.
We disposed of the remains with an overhand fling into the woods. The boys are looking for another snake to grace our herb pond. We are going to try to get a mama and papa snake so we can have baby snakes, but so far we haven’t been able to tell the difference. They don’t seem to be properly equipped.
Yesterday they brought home a rattlesnake they had killed. They were so excited about the prospects of skinning it out and making a belt or hatband. They were both talking at the same time about what they could do with it. But when I started describing the procedures for skinning it out, and suggested that they go right outside and get the job done, they became silent and then asked me where they should dispose of the dead snake. There won’t be any rattlesnake belts going back to the orphanage this fall.
As I sit here writing, one of them is outside weedeating and the other is on the roof of the barn making some repairs. They love working and seeing things get accomplished. They thrive on the self-respect and the respect they receive from others.
Deb and I have come to some interesting conclusions from having observed them. These orphans are extremely thankful and the opposite of lazy. But many homeschoolers tell us that their children are lazy and unthankful. That is a profound combination of vices—lazy and unthankful. Deb and I were discussing it with my mother just last week. We have never heard of anyone that was lazy and thankful. Nor have we heard of anyone that was hardworking and unthankful. Our conclusion: unthankfulness is related to laziness. Kids that are raised with everything provided for them, kids who don’t have to pay the price of labor for anything, come to expect the bounties of life to be served up without a personal cost. Thus they are lazy, and since they expect to be on the receiving end, they are unthankful. So if you have lazy/unthankful kids, don’t expect to produce thankfulness by forcing them to say “Thank you.” No amount of moral lecturing or teaching on thankfulness will produce it. Thankfulness is a by-product of believing you do not deserve the gifts that are thrown your way. If you believe you have it coming, it is impossible to be thankful.
These orphans are the most thankful people in the world. They do not expect anything but a beating, some scraps to eat, and a cold street in which to sleep. To them work is a way to make life better. Love is a gift from heaven. Friends who care are to be cultivated and appreciated. A bologna sandwich and a glass of water offered with a smile are received with thankfulness in such a way that you see bologna in a whole new light.
My daughters love the boys like they were family. They construct their free time around the orphans. I am proud to see my girls, 18 and 20 years old, choose to give up their time and energy to minister to these kids. It is what they want to do. It is the thing they value more than anything else. They would be disappointed if circumstance were to limit them from this opportunity.
Parents, what a marvelous privilege you have. I think that when I was a parent of young children, I did not appreciate then as I do now, the tremendous ramifications of what was occurring. Just think, you and only you have the privilege and responsibility to mold young souls into the kind of adults that will please God. In a sense you are babysitting for God. Even when they are your birth children, you are the sole trainers of God’s children. Eternity will be different in some way through the time you spend with your children and the way you train them up. God bless us parents!