Thursday, August 27, 2015

What our four-year-old grandson taught me at the Nashville Zoo

Several weeks ago now, three of our grandchildren joined us for a week while our daughter and son-in-law packed for a big move.

We definitely got the best end of that bargain.

And when joined by our two in-town grandchildren, there was a rollicking crew.

On their last day here, we took the kids on that sweltering afternoon to the Nashville zoo.  Each of the children took turns riding in the stroller as we examined flamingos, observed the giraffes striding along on their graceful legs, and combed the goats fur with large plastic brushes.

As we passed the concession stand, strategically placed halfway through the zoo, the kids cried out, "We're hungry!" Out of my bag of tricks, I pulled out their water bottles, a sleeve of graham crackers, and some apple sauce pouches. Although we were surrounded by colorful signs advertising Slushies, popcorn and other such delights, the kids gladly consumed the snacks I brought with us. When I handed out the apple sauce pouches, our oldest granddaughter asked if she could have one too. I dug down to the bottom of the bag.  There was not another.  As I said, "I'm so sorry, sweetie," her four year old brother Howie turned and willingly shared his pouch with her.  As I was putting the baby back in the stroller, I looked up.  People were silently watching that unusual and deliberate act of kindness.

After the zoo, we traveled across town to their cousin's first birthday party.  On the way, my husband asked the kids about their favorite animal that afternoon.  At first, Howie said the giraffes, but then looked rather serious for a few minutes, as if he was contemplating another.

Suddenly from the back seat came his little voice, "I would have liked to have had some cotton candy," he stated, "but I am grateful that I will have cake at the party." 

My heart stopped at the profound words of this little child.  His heart's desire did not revolve on the elusive things he did not have, but the reality of what he did. It was not a resigning voice of "oh, well," but an all-strengthening voice of contentment.  Coveting is a revolving door that never stops.  Contentment redeems everything.

Not that I complain of want,
for I have learned,
in whatever state I am,
         to be content.

                   Philippians 4.11

He indeed had cake at the birthday party, a huge vanilla cupcake with sprinkles, but his spontaneous words in the car that afternoon kept reverberating in my thoughts in the days that followed.

When I had the opportunity, I asked our daughter Beth, "Who taught him that?" after I related the story to her.

"I don't know," Beth said. "He has been saying that a lot lately." 

Two days after they left, in my morning Bible reading, I read in the Scriptures a verse about the dangers of complaining.

 "...nor grumble,
as some of them did
and were destroyed by the Destroyer."     
                      1 Corinthians 10.10

And while I was running that morning, despite the warning of the verse, an unruly crowd of discontented  thoughts joined me on my run.  As my trail passed through fields and woods, it became obvious to me that grumbling is a certain destruction, a pattern of behavior that solves nothing and sure doesn't make you feel any better at all.

Quite suddenly, slicing through my thoughts came Howie's little voice piping up from the backseat.  I repeated them to myself.  "I would have liked to have had _______, but I am grateful for _______."

I filled in the blanks.  And God filled up my heart.

The antidote to discontentment
                     is not more dissatisfaction.
 The solution to grumbling
                     is not to complain even more.
But the pivotal point in turning away from any greed
is a grateful heart.

It changes how we see everything.

Sometimes we just need to fill in the blanks
                with a different heart.

I know how to be abased,
and I know how to abound,
in any and all circumstances
      I have learned
      the secret of facing plenty and hunger,
            abundance and want.
I can do all things in Him
      who strengthens me.

                        Philippians 4. 12-13

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