Study Abroad develops skills
October 16, 2020

Column

Jewel Schuurmans

“Just remember, Mom, ‘you can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth you,’” he said, his little face twisting in a smile. His lisp made me chuckle as I filmed him on my phone and watched him flex his 5-year-old arms in front of the camera. We had been waiting all day to hear if his mom, my sister, had had her baby yet, and Cedric wanted to send her an encouraging video.

Early that morning when he came sleepily downstairs to hear she was in labor, we danced around the room to celebrate. He showed me the outfit he had set out for his new baby brother and told me all about the toys they would share together. “But not yet,” he said, tilting his head and raising his eyebrows. “He’s not old enough yet, but soon! I’m going to teach him how to be strong.” He started flexing on that last word, his favorite move.

Cedric has a way of loving the best in everybody he meets. I cheered while watching a movie and little yearand-a-half-old Cedric raised his fists, a goldfish cracker clutched in one, to cheer with me. What we were cheering for was irrelevant – to him, my cheer was reason enough.

When he was a toddler, he would wave to strangers, offering hugs to anyone who smiled back at him. A month ago, my sister texted me while I was gone from a family party to tell me Cedric had looked around, sighed and said, “Isn’t it sad to not see Jewel here?”

Since he was a baby, Cedric has absorbed my love, tripled it and radiated it back to me. Everything he does is saturated with passion. You start to think you can do anything when he looks at you with his sweet, closed-mouth smile pushing up his cheeks and his eyes so full of confidence and trust.

And yet, he has no idea the extent that he has changed me. When he jumps into my arms, he’s unaware he’s healing the pain from the day. He doesn’t know whether his optimism and friendliness makes any difference to me; that’s just who he is. When he turns 13, he’ll be oblivious to the way his baby dimples opened my heart or the way his 4-year-old jumps made me forget the weight adulthood imposes. I thank the Lord that He uses so much of what my nephew does as avenues for His tender mercies.

We don’t always know the way we affect people. We don’t see their hearts as God does, we can’t feel their emotions as He feels or turn the river of their thinking as He can. Sometimes your impromptu smile to a stranger is what keeps them from losing hope that day. Maybe the respect you showed someone with a disability prompted someone else to think about their own awareness. Maybe someone saw you when you picked up a stray napkin to throw it away and was reminded of faithfulness in the little things.

Proverbs 20:11 says, “Even a child is known by his doings, whether his work be pure, and whether it be right.”

We should realize two things: one, whether we are aware of it or not, our actions influence others. Two, God can shape those influences into instruments for His glory based on what is in the heart of others. Don’t underestimate the power of your own actions and the Lord’s ability to craft them as He wills, and keep your own heart ready to be redirected back to Him through the influence of those around you – even that of a child.