The Nudist, the Tooth Fairy and Kate

Elephant Dance on the Nile by Alicia McCauley

Her name is Kate. Her fondness for elephants planted a seed of an idea that someday she wants to do missionary work in Africa. It’s a someday idea for Kate because she’s eleven years old and when she donated $18, she became the first child to be a Vigilante of Kindness for Uganda.

When I was eleven, I babysat the neighborhood kids and earned $2 an hour. It would’ve taken me 9 hours to earn Kate’s donation. Nine hours of changing diapers and reading bedtime stories and telling kids to stop running with that in the house. NO WAY IN HELL did I ever even entertain the idea of giving my cash away to someone else. Absolutely no way. That was hard-earned candy money right there.

I understand that babysitting rates have increased significantly since that time, but even still eighteen dollars isn’t easy to come by when you’re eleven.

Shoot, sometimes eighteen dollars isn’t easy to come by as an adult. Dear ones, I’ve lived those days when Top Ramen was on the dinner menu almost all of the time and running the air conditioner was a luxury we could only afford when temperatures scorched past one hundred ten degrees. Ah, the glory days of being a poor, newlywed, college student.

What I’m trying to say is that I know Kate’s donation required sacrifice, that it was an offering cut from her heart.

My mom is a retired teacher so I’ve always known the secret that all good teachers know: the children in my life teach me FAR more than I will ever teach them.

The lesson I’m learning from Kate is that sacrifice is only that if it costs me something. And Kate’s not the only one teaching me that.

The 7th graders at my school are studying Africa and as part of their study, they’re doing Vigilante Acts of Kindness for their families, friends and neighbors. In return they’re collecting donations for the Vigilante Kindness for Uganda fund. One boy cleaned out his grandmother’s rain gutters. A girl is washing the neighborhood dogs. They’re teaching me about what service really looks like.

When I told my first graders about what the seventh graders are doing, they were indignant that our class wasn’t doing something. How dare I think that because they’re little they shouldn’t be part of this. Shame on me. So I set up a change jar in our classroom to include my little ones. Their donations come in pennies and nickels from pockets full of rocks and toy rings and string and other bits of childhood.
One of my little ones donated her Tooth Fairy money.

Her Tooth Fairy money.

And when she dropped her coins in the jar, her gap-toothed grin stretched from ear to ear. One of my little boys earns quarters by taking in his elderly neighbor’s trash cans. He earns a quarter per can. The trash cans are taller than he is. When he put three trash can quarters and other change from his piggy bank in our jar, it was all I could do to blink back the mist in my eyes and thank him.

I wish I could say that all of the surprises have been good and sweet, but there was also the person who has every luxury in the world and wrote me a check that bounced. As I watched the bounced check fee lower my own bank account, I felt swindled as I hung onto a thin hope that it was an accident.

On the other hand, there’s the nudist, Atheist, bigot who heard about what my fellow Vigilantes and I are up to and he plunked $30 down on the table. It delights me to no end that though we are polar opposites, we’ve found common ground-in Uganda of all places.

I’ve mentioned before that sometimes God has to make things really clear for me to get it through my thick skull. Okay, He has to do that most of the time. Lately, He’s been dealing with excavating my sour, sinful judgments.

Think He can’t use the very youngest to accomplish His will? Enter Kate and a mess of other kids taking their neighborhoods by storm one quarter at a time.

Assume that He will of course use the wealthy? I’ve got a bank statement that shows exactly how much removing that assumption cost me.

Think God won’t compel the hearts of people who fall on the other side of most everything I believe? I’ve got thirty bucks, thirty good reminders, that God will use whomever He pleases to work in this world and that I’d do well to drop my judgments at the door, shut up and sit at His feet to watch it all unfold.

I don’t know the words to describe the exquisite pleasure I get in doing this beautiful Vigilante Kindness work with you. Frankly, most mornings I wake up in disbelief that I get to do stuff like this. Me? Stubborn, sinful, judgmental me? Really?

Thank God.

That’s the beauty of it. When I look at the line of people God is stringing together to do this work, it’s unusual to say the least.

Wanna know who the Vigilantes of Kindness are? Here are just a few descriptors of our posse thus far.

We’re 7 year olds and 87 year olds, too.
We’re starving artists and the wealthy elite.
We’re mothers and daughters, fathers and sons.
We’re dog washers and cat lovers.
We’re Atheists and the devout.
We’re straight and gay.
We’re married and single.
We’re widowers and divorcees.
We’re hunters and elephant lovers.
We’re pure hearted and judgmental, sometimes in the very same breath.
We’re countless different races and we make our homes in seven different states.
We’re students and teachers.
We’re sinners and saints.

I’ll say it again because I want to hold tight to this lesson that God is so diligently teaching me:

God can and will use whomever He pleases.

And at the end of the day I lay my head on my pillow, grateful and delighted to be counted as one in that messy, magnificent menagerie.

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