Can you fix the frog?

“The problem with our world is we draw the circles of our families too small.” Mother Teresa

I discovered the above quote from Mother Teresa when I visited her ministry in Calcutta.  The quote was on the wall of one of her buildings.  When I started Safe Families, I was sure that all I had to do was convince people to expand the circles of their families just a little bit more.  If we all do so together, we can build this massive safety net. However, most of us, when we think of “our family,” we realize DNA defines the circle of who is in and who is out.  Expanding the circle requires us to think differently.

I believe the family is the most powerful change agent in our society for correcting many social ills. This includes your family as well as mine.  However, we often defend, protect, and guard our families, keeping our children from the stress of strangers thinking we are doing them a favor.  Many of us are hesitant to open our homes because of our children.  I do want my kids to feel safe and secure, but also, I want them to understand that we have a responsibility to give back.

My daughter, Audrey, was about 10 years old when we took in a little 5-year-old boy. She had recently got a “miniature frog” as a pet.  As we sat down holding hands to pray for dinner, this little boy pulled the frog out of his pocket and asked if Audrey can “fix the frog.” It was obviously dead.  She screamed and ran upstairs crying. She eventually got over it that evening, understanding that he didn’t know any better.  It probably took me a little longer to get over it as I often wonder how living out hospitality impacts my children.

I got a glimmer of what the impact of a life of hospitality had on my kids when my daughter wrote an essay to get into graduate school. She wrote about how serving as a host family has had a powerful impact on who she is and what she wants to do with her life.  When I read it I honestly was a little relieved. As I was curious about what I thought were traumatic events and how they impacted her, I asked Audrey about the frog incident.  She didn’t even remember it.  I was relieved.

Our children are often more durable than we think and many flourish when a stranger temporarily moves in.  Those who do struggle probably would benefit from being stretched.  Can we expand the circles of our families a little bigger and unleash its power?