Last night, I went out to grab some firewood to put in the fireplace. I noticed by the back door a small pile of Cheetos. This was, certainly, not a normal thing to find outside the back door.
However, having three children, you learn to expect the occasional odd thing to happen. So, the question was sent through the house: "Did any of you dump your Cheetos outside?" Yes, parenting involves asking questions that you know the answer to. I knew they weren't from my dinner, and Ann knew they weren't from hers, so we assumed that a random person had not come by, dropped Cheetos at the door and gone on.
Fortunately, we had a quick response that, indeed, we had a child acknowledging the crunchy cheesy event. When asked why, the answer seemed a little odd, as it was "because of kids living on the street." The final conclusion was this: apparently, for fear that a child might be living on the streets and need food, we had put the Cheetos outside for this unknown child.
The first issue to be determined, then, was this: are you aware of any actual homeless children in Almyra? The answer was no, none specifically, but we have been learning to care more about others than just ourselves, and it's possible there's a hungry kid out there.
Second question: are you sure you'd want to eat those Cheetos now? Um, no. Follow-up thought: plus, Cheetos aren't exactly a nutritious meal, but we didn't go there.
Third, and last: are there better ways to be helpful? We then had a good discussion that if we didn't waste our food, we would be able to keep doing things like giving a little to the Salvation Army bell-ringers or find some other hunger-relief groups to support. That we could work through our church to help feed hungry folks around us, and that a pile of Cheetos by the door only provides one-half the recipe for chocolate-covered ants.
It was a noble, caring thought. It was just, well, misguided in its application. I recognize that I do the same things sometimes. I'll have in my heart what I want to do, the ideals I want to uphold, but do I do it well?
There's times to stress about the methods, and there are certainly methods that will always be out of bounds, but let's remember one thing very important:
If the heart is in the right place, it's not rebuke that's needed. It's gentle training to get the actions to be most effective. If the heart is in the right place, it's opportunity that's needed, or opportunity will be created.
So, let's celebrate those who will do anything, even goofy things, to try and show their love for God and their fellow people. Even if it means a pile of Cheetos by the back door.