Today we joined a couple dozen folks from Theophilus Church to rake leaves and clean up trash at Grover Cleveland High School in Portland, OR. We spent five hours raking wet leaves, scooping them into bins, and emptying those bins into trucks. And we did all this with our two daughters, 6 and 7 years old.
They were amazing. Sydney, our oldest daughter, grabbed a rake and jumped right in. She absolutely loved making neat piles. That totally fits with her personality. What was astonishing is that she also picked up a lot of those piles and put them into bins and buckets. She is a child who hates being dirty. With one pair of gloves that she had to share with her sister, I am still bewildered that she thrust her hands into the muck without batting an eye.
Rylee quickly tired of raking, but she found her place as a toter of buckets. Whenever we’d fill up one of the plastic containers, she’d muscle it off the ground and carry it over to the truck. One of the guys there would take it, empty it, and hand it back to her. Then she’d run in her little rain boots back to the pile we were working on.
The girls took breaks to play games of hide-and-seek and to splash around in puddles on the sidewalk. Overall, however, they worked. And they knew why they were working. We were joining our church community to pitch in and serve our neighbors. No one from the school was there. The parents who come for conferences with the teacher next week won’t know that our girls circled that building with giggles and smiles and grubby hands.
As we drove home I found myself hoping that the memories we created today will mean something. By serving as a family, I hope our girls will be able to recall this experience, and others like it, as times when we put our bodies where our beliefs are. That we live our faith in dirty, unextraordinary ways.