Something about this trip to the Dominican Republic restored a part of my relationship with my 14-year old son, Josh, which had recently become somewhat…out of balance. It had been a stressful couple of weeks leading up to our departure, what with the illness which swept through our home, his oral surgery, and that “issue” with his report card and all.
Josh had always been my buddy. Yes, I’m still his mama, but in many ways we had always shared a sweet friendship, and we’d talk about anything and everything. “He talks like he’s an adult,” his first grade teacher once told me. “You guys are doing a great job as parents.” I proudly wore such compliment as a badge of honor on my heart.
Sometime during this school year, though, we began to slip out of sync. Maybe that’s just life with a teenager, but I hadn’t been comfortable with it. Our conversations became littered with defensiveness and misunderstanding. They became, more often than not, one-way conversation (aka, nagging).
As Josh saw first-hand what poverty truly looks like this week in DR, I watched a part of his heart soften. I don’t know exactly what he was thinking – teenage boys don’t always verbalize their thoughts to Mom – but I saw something in his eyes change as he played with the many little children who came up to him.
Meeting Francis was the turning point. There was no mistaking that Josh’s life is drastically different – much better in so many ways — than Francis’, and I could tell that he felt moved to try and do his part to make life better for Francis and his family. Maybe he felt pity, which was a big improvement from not caring at all. But while playing catch with this 13-year old boy, using the baseball and mitt we gave as gifts, I saw two boys on equal footing (actually, Francis has better arm than Josh!), sharing a common interest. Maybe in that moment, Josh switched from thinking of Francis as a victim of poverty; he was simply with a new friend.
His heart moved from pity to compassion.
Back at the hotel, he was joking with me like he hadn’t in a long time. He was a my buddy again. It was difficult saying goodbye to our travel group, as we had to leave one day early so Josh wouldn’t miss the entire week of school. Josh had become an integral part of our team rather than “Junko’s son.” Everyone hugged him goodbye and wished him well for his science test tomorrow. Back to reality.
As we head home, I hope and pray that his heart continues to be filled with compassion and that he never forgets that these impoverished children are not nameless faces but God’s precious sons and daughters…and potential friends. May he never forget that even at 14, Josh can do his part to make life a little brighter for one teenager in a foreign country.
And May I continue to have a restored bond with my teenager.