Life Moments #8: Compassion

My husband and I with our three youngest children (5, 4, 8 mths) took a trip to Vegas and then on to Idaho where we bought a van and proceeded to visit family in Montana before arriving back home. It was a nice, busy, chaotic trip as I’m sure any parent can relate to…..three children under 7 in the vehicle for hours on top of hours. Yes, not the highlight of our trip, but enjoyable for the most part, anyway.

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However, my real story starts at the time we left. All I could think about was time with my husband – a fleeting concept with seven children in the home – as well as it being my three youngest children’s first time flying. I was excited – six out of nine have now flown! Okay, it might seem silly to some, but since I didn’t fly for the first time until I was 29/30, their first flight was exciting and went incredibly smooth for our young children.  Another exciting part is that we got to see another part of the US. We live in small North Dakota with nothing but flat lands (in our area anyway), fields of golden wheat or green corn stocks as high as I am – probably higher – and cows, sheep, horses. Nice views sometimes, but views that may not seem that exciting to young children. Anyway, we like to travel and I was excited for myself, my husband, and our children to see a change in scenery. Las Vegas was full of desert vegetation that we aren’t used to seeing, lively sparkling lights at sundown, and beautifully landscaped roadways and scenic drives into the hills/desert that contain some pretty awesome rock formations and wildlife. My husband was excited to hike into the hills and to explore the differing landscape. As we drive through the mountains in Idaho, with their winding roadways, small mountain towns, and a rushing river that switched from one side of the roadway to the other, we discovered some hotsprings and many, many beautiful, trees that stood so tall over the sides of the snow-peaked mountain tops. If you’ve never seen it in person just imagine the mountains on the Coors beer can, snow-capped mountains – at least that’s what the mountains made me think of (not the beer, I don’t drink, but the image). Absolutely stunning! But, alas, that beauty was interrupted with my bad moods and the children’s fussiness at being in the vehicle for such long periods of drive time. We tried to stop frequently to stretch our legs and take in the fresh, mountain air, but it’s never frequent enough for children!

The tail end of our trip ended with visiting family in beautiful Helena, MT. Now Helena is a place to visit that I will recommend. It definitely has its’ share of beauty and peace. The best part was just seeing our family though as I’m sure most of you can attest to. When you haven’t seen family members in over a year, possibly more, it’s fun to see the changes in their children, but also to reminisce and collaborate with the adults. To see siblings, brothers in this case, interact with one another is full of wonderful moments.  This was the best part of the trip!

However, one of the most memorable points in our trip was driving in downtown Vegas, past all the sparkling lights and casinos, away from the hustle and bustle of the strip that boasted a wedding chapel on every block and back-to-back hotels fervently calling one tourist after another. The downtown area was whole different place, yet similar to the strip. The architecture seemed to play down quite a bit, but was still full of the culture of Las Vegas, interesting to say the least. It was here, however, in which we saw what is missing in our smaller part of the US, but is a very prominent problem in bigger cities.

Homelessness.

As we drove the streets of downtown Las Vegas, we witnessed one homeless alley after the previous. We drove down one roadway in which we discovered a village of homeless people with their tents scattered about under a roadway tunnel/overpass. When I saw this, the excitement I had at the start of our trip started to wane. I no longer saw the trip as all about my husband, myself and my children. It opened up the concern in my heart that seems so easily lost in our protected, coddled state that we live in, a state in which we very seldom encounter a homeless person, let alone a village of homeless people. We might have our run-ins with jobless individuals passing through trying to get back home or boom/bust out of state workers who’ve somehow lost their earnings trying to get to the next job or their home, but as for full-fledged homeless, jobless people who are truly at the mercy of the city or town in which they homelessly reside, it’s a rare occurrence.

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Witnessing such a life really tends to opens one’s eyes to the problems of this small part of the world we call home. It’s a problem that is world-wide, but until one actually sees it, witness it with one’s own eyes, it doesn’t seem to be an immediate problem, one worth the time and effort it takes to combat it. Unfortunately, driving in this area of town was the night before our plane was leaving. At a loss as to what to do, we did what we thought would be beneficial to someone. We had bought a few groceries for an all-day scenic drive that we took earlier that day, some stuff to picnic with and munch on while driving and exploring. As we came back into town that evening, that’s when we drove through that area of downtown. The next morning, as we got ready to head to return the rental car and head to the airport, we drove back to that area of town and gave the food we had left to the first group of homeless people we encountered. We had spoken with our girls that morning and they fought us because they wanted to keep their snacks. However, after some heart-felt conversation, they finally agreed to give the food away. With heads down and frowns on their faces, they walked with their dad to give their food away. They were not happy about it, but they DID it! To me, that’s the most important part of the trip.

They learned a concept that some never learn,

to give up what they want so others may have.

My husbands’ and my heart was happy.

There is no better way to teach your children compassion than to show compassion yourself.

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