I am convinced that some of the best family stories happen in the kitchen. Whether it is preparing dinner, doing dishes, or opening the fridge for the fifth time to see if that meat lover’s pizza has suddenly appeared. It just seems to be a place where things happen. In fact, a kitchen conversation with my five-year old daughter Lydia changed my life, and taught me that if I wanted to thrive as dad, I needed to think like a child.
Lydia and I were getting ready to rummage through the fridge for an afternoon snack when she suddenly blurted out, “Dad, I want to start a store for homeless people.” Yes, a store, and yes for homeless people.
“Dad, I want to start a store for homeless people.”
Now, as I stood in the kitchen processing what I just heard, I had a choice to make on how I would respond. I could be a well-trained, and well-educated parent who explains to her that homeless people don’t have money for her store. I could acknowledge her "cute"idea and move on to something more rational, or I could engage with her right where she was at.
With a bucket of grace and a little luck I responded by saying, “That’s a great idea Lydia, what would you have at the store?”
Lydia says very matter of factly, “Food.”
I ask her, “Would they have to pay for the food?”
She says, “Oh no, they could just get it for free.”
She was serious and determined, and grace struck me again as I said, “Would you have to start your own store? Because I have a friend with a store just like that, what do you think about working at his store?’
Lydia tracks right with me and says, “Oh sure we could do that.”
Lydia wanted to talk with my friend Kyle who worked with the Union Gospel Mission so I dialed him up and handed the phone over. I couldn’t wait to see how the conversation would go, and I can only say that standing there live did not disappoint.
Kyle says, “Hello” and my determined daughter says, “This is Lydia, I want to work at your store.” I can barely make out Kyle’s response as my five-year-old Mother Teresa presses the phone tighter to her ear, but he says, “What store?’ With the vigor of a Marine Sargeant she says, “You tell me, it’s YOUR store!”
As I heard Kyle laughing I took the phone back for some more laughs and then we talked about how our family, affectionately known as "Team Williams" could help homeless people at his store.
In turns out that we couldn’t serve food because of some restrictions, but Kyle did have a huge need for people to help with the weekly chapel at their women’s shelter called the Simonka House. It was just the right fit for ‘Team Williams.’ Our three girls did a dance routine they learned at a summer camp, my wife Araya played guitar, and I gave a message. We met new friends like Angel, and Tanya, and Jean. We headed back to the Simonka House again, and our daughters went to a birthday party for one of the little girls. A few months later we got to bless a single mom with a dryer for her new home after she was able to leave the Simonka House. Jesus said,
“Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven.”
And on the blog, I will be sharing more great stories that have come from that kitchen conversation, like starting a “store for homeless people.” But they are stories that would have never been told if I would have used my adult mind to engage with Lydia. As a dad who wants to be more intentional, have more fun, and live a better story with my family, I had to think like a child.
So this week, when your child or grandchild tells you they want to start a “store for homeless people.” Pause for a moment, don’t give your first answer, think like a child, and see what adventure it takes you on.