Last week Joel, my eight-year old, made me a touching offer. “Daddy, I want to buy you a slurpee today.” So later that day we idled down to the corner store where he snagged us a pair of sugar-bombed slurpees to suck in father-son bliss. With his own money. For an eight-year old, a dollar thirty is probably about thirty dollars, so you can just about imagine how touched I was at his gesture.
Later that night, I was lying in bed with him, tucking him in, shooting the breeze before our prayers.
“That was very special how you bought me a slurpee today, Joel.”
How special? It got me thinking, searching through my memories and coming up blank. Which confirmed my suspicions. “You know what, buddy? I can’t think of a single time growing up when I bought anything for my parents—other than Christmas and birthdays and stuff. I think you’re more generous than I’ve ever been.”
His eight-year old face shone with joy. The conversation switched channels a few times, until he said, “You know what my favourite story that you told me is, dad? The story of Richard.”
Richard? Really? I knew exactly the one he meant.
“Yup. And I know it by heart. I know all the details. I’ve even told it to my friends.”
“Really? Could you tell me the story, Joel?”
“Sure.” He pauses, then launches a diatribe about me being on an inner city mission trip when I was just out of high school. While doing some street ministry in downtown Toronto I met Richard, a street kid who stank to high heaven. I guess that’s how God knew he needed my help. First, I bought him supper at McDonalds (the healthy choice). When he asked me for another burger, I joked, “Hey, I don’t wanna make a mooch out of you!” Richard’s eyes glazed over and he replied, “That’s all I got. All I got.”
At which point the Holy Spirit grabbed me and I grabbed Richard and marched him into a department store to buy him new sweat pants, socks, and shoes.
Joel got it. The whole story (except the wrong city). I was amazed, but even more amazed when I realized what the story was about: Generosity. I’ve always known Joel is generous, but I had no idea how deeply that thread has been woven into his soul. He remembers the story, it’s such a standout to him, because it’s about generosity. Because he is generous by nature. It speaks his language.
“You know what, dad? There was a time when you gave your mom and dad something special.”
I still can’t remember. “There was?”
“Yeah. When you left home grandpa said you gave him all your hockey cards.”
Again, generosity. Time to connect the dots, time to speak into his life. “Do you know why you remember these stories, Joel?”
“Because they’re about generosity. Sharing. God has written generosity on your soul. It’s who you are deep down. God is going to use you to touch many, many Richards in your life. Not just street kids, but people who need help in all kinds of ways.”
I can sense his imagination flickering and booming like an impressive fireworks display. When we pray, Joel says, “Lord, I want to meet hundreds and hundreds of Richards.”
I’m so proud to be Joel’s dad. I’m so grateful to be a vital part of his development. I’m so glad the Holy Spirit helped me connect the dots for him and speak it into his life.
What dots is God trying to connect in your life? In the life of your children?