His Word, Kids/Parenting

Nature…or Nurture?

Recently, Emma got sick. It was no fun…for me or for her.

When I took her to the doctor, one of the first questions they asked me was if either of us had been out of the country within the last 21 days. I thought back to our recent trip to Chicago. While technically, it wasn’t geographically out of the country, I certainly felt as though I were in a foreign land.

One thing I’ve discovered about myself is that I am a bona fide country girl. I belong in the city like “Fifty Shades of Grey” belongs in the children’s literature section. Not a good choice.

But I digress…as I’m sitting here in the Barnes & Noble Cafe, listening to the typical bookstore music selection, with my daughter next to me, reading away, I begin to allow my thoughts to wander…

You know how they say the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree? Well, I believe that’s true in both good and in bad situations.

When someone has lived their life and been surrounded by negativity, then negativity will prevail. The same can be said for the opposite.

This takes us back to the age old question of nature or nurture. Is a child’s behavior a result of their inherent nature or is it a result of their environment growing up? For the most part, I think that children learn what they see. If they see giving, then they will be giving in nature. If they see greed, then they will have a greedy nature.

On this trip to Chicago, we got around much in the same manner they did in Biblical times…on foot. If you’ve been to the Michigan Avenue area of Chicago, you can imagine some of the sights we saw and experiences we encountered while walking.

Huge storefronts for retail giants like Nike, Tiffany & Co., The Disney Store, and Under Armour covered the street fronts. Clearly, this is THE place to be if you’re wanting to partake in a little retail therapy.

It was on this street in this big city where I felt like a fish out of water, that I realized {hold onto your seats here, folks} my children HAVE been listening to me…

While waiting for one of the walk signs to change, we met a man begging for money. This simple event changed the entire nature of our trip. The first to notice was Elijah. He began to tear up. He was upset because he had found a $5 bill in the hotel lobby earlier in the trip. He had tried to find the rightful owner of it, but couldn’t. At the time, I told him to hold onto it, that God would present him with an opportunity to bless someone with it. And here, he felt, was that perfect opportunity, and yet he couldn’t find the $5.

My nephew was also visibly shaken and began crying. Emma was the third to be affected. By the next street, I had two sobbing children on my hands. Elijah was disturbed that the man apparently didn’t have enough to eat. While Emma’s sobs came in between mutterings of, ‘We have so much, Momma, and he has so little.’

I was able to stop in sidewalk traffic, which is no easy feat on this heavily traveled path, long enough to tell the kids that God was so happy with their hearts right now. That He sees how burdened they are by the tragedy of the poor and oppressed. We also took some time to pray for him and any others that we may encounter.

For you mommas out there, you can imagine how much my heart was bursting with pride in my children. Pride that they ARE hearing me. Pride that they are allowing God to work in and mold their little kid hearts. Pride that this one event, shows me that they can be more affected by nurture than nature.

The three of us then agreed to find a store where we could find food to buy and hand out to anyone who may be in need. We found a Walgreens later in the trip. We bought water, bananas, and granola bars for two people.

I have to admit, my flesh began to get weak. I was annoyed that, while this was a great idea, spurred on by my children, naturally, I was the one carrying the bags for most of the trip. {Emma did her fair share of carrying them.} But every time I began to allow this to creep into my thinking, I remembered the reactions of my children.

We ultimately found two people to bless with these bags. And Elijah eventually found his $5 and was able to pass that along as well.

During the course of the events of this 24 hours, I had several thoughts running through my mind. Of course, being an adult, and being jaded by people, my natural reaction was to simply pass these people by without another thought. There were times when I thought, why would I give them any money, they’re probably just going to spend it on drugs or alcohol or cigarettes.

This was a possibility the kids and I even discussed. But then I reminded myself, and them, that we are to give as God calls us. It’s not our place to judge how the receiver uses it. Having said that, I do believe that God will give us a spirit of discernment regarding our giving.


If you’ve made it this far in the post I need to tell you that I’m not sharing all of this with you to pat myself on the back. I’m not trying to bring attention to myself. What I am trying to do is remind you that God’s word will not return void. He WILL accomplish His goals, whatever they may be.

I think that kids learn what they see. I have tried very hard to model a generous spirit to my children. Not so I can brag, but because people have been so generous to me. I want my kids to know that if you pay it forward, it really can make an impact in the lives of others.

And, continuing the verse in the graphic, in Luke 6:38, we find a reminder that, “The amount you give will determine the amount you get back.”

3 thoughts on “Nature…or Nurture?”

  1. We try so hard to teach our children to do “what would make God happy,” or to have a heart that would “make God happy.” What I think we overlook sometimes is that we should be guiding them to have the heart Jesus would, and to respond compassionately as He would–with the same grace He extends to all of us. And that’s exactly what I heard in your story. As I read about your childrens’ tears, I imagined Jesus shedding tears along side them–weather it’s because they had nothing to eat, no place to go, or they simply chose a life of drugs and alcohol. All of these things hurt Him, I’m sure.
    I thought of Luke 16:10 as I finished reading this…Not far from your thoughts.

  2. I have had similar experiences with my son and it makes me so proud. And he has suprised me by telling me how proud he is that I’m so good to the people and help children that are hungry. He worries a lot about street children that don’t have a home to go to or parents to take care of them. I think it’s such a beautiful moment when you see that the little seed you have sown has taken and grown roots. May it grow even bigger!

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