Accidental Magic that Changed My Life

By Keith Miller | January 5, 2009

Keith, sometimes I think my kids will never learn to be unselfish. They fight over everything and are constantly begging for new toys. Any suggestions?

When I first thought about your question, all I could remember was fighting with my brother and our father lecturing us about being so selfish. He and Mother must have wondered if we’d ever get to be grateful for what we had. So I know we were selfish.

But then I recalled an incident that took place when I was a little boy, probably about five years old. I was invited to a birthday party of a boy in my first grade class, the first one I had ever been to. I went in this boy’s house. Our house was very nice, but I could tell this house was the house of a poor family. I don’t know whether the boy’s mother had said not to bring presents, or what, but hardly anyone brought one. And I didn’t either.

I few weeks earlier I’d been given a small toy car.It was made of lead and painted bright red. It was a race car with little fins out the back. It was amazing for 1933. It was my treasure, and I carried it everywhere.In church it would keep me from crawling around under the pews. It didn’t make much noise when it rolled. Well, I had this little red car in my pocket when I came to this party, because I always kept it with me. It was my favorite toy.

After the boy blew out the candles, his mother brought out a few presents his parents had been able to get him. I could tell he was disappointed and embarrassed. I don’t know how I knew that, but I could just see it.I felt strange about how he must be feeling, and I thought, “Gosh, I’ll bet he’d love to have a nice red car like I have.”Then I just said impulsively, “Oh, here’s my present. I forgot to wrap it,” and handed him my little red car.

He was ecstatic.Going home from that party, I missed my car. But I was glad I’d given it to him. And my mother said she was glad I did, too, because it “saved the day” for the boy—whatever that meant.

I can’t remember doing that kind of thing for another kid.In fact I became a very self-centered boy and young man who had to hit the wall before I could surrender to God and be grateful that Jesus told us that it is more blessed to give than to receive even though my mother certainly had tried to teach me that. But I didn’tknowhow true that was until I remembered the day I gave a gift that really meant something to me in terms of my six year old world.So I don’t know what it will take for your kids, but I had to grow up rebelling against my parents until I was ready to hear what they had been trying to tell me all along.

Lord, thank you that you guide me toward loving in the strangest ways and have been teaching me through my parents, then teachers, friends and even impulsive nudges, until I was needy enough to be able to recognize you and receive the costly gift that’s “saved the day” for me—for the rest of my life.That’s when we know what your words mean. Thank you that my mother encouraged me. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Teach what you’ve seen and heard to your children and grandchildren. Deuteronomy 4:9 THE MESSAGE

Point your kids in the right directions—when they’re old they won’t be lost. Proverbs 22:6 THE MESSAGE

Children, do what your parents tell you.This delights the Master no end. Colossians 3:30 THE MESSAGE

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