My older daughter had a soccer game last night. It had been a busy couple of days for everyone, and my younger daughter was less than enamored with the idea of finishing the weekend at her sister's soccer game. We had all been up late several nights in a row after a couple of days completely on the run, and I knew she was tired, which often doesn't offer up the best decision-making results.
However, last night I watched my younger daughter do something she didn't have to do. She was playing with several other younger siblings when I turned away from the game to look for her. As I started to turn back, I realized that it wasn't a happy scene. One girl was being left out.
I watched to see what was really going on and to see how it would turn out. At one point, I heard my younger daughter say, "It's OK. She can play." Her words were ignored by the other two girls. As I continued to watch, my younger daughter fell silent for several minutes. I wondered if she would try again to include this girl or if she felt like she had tried and failed.
After a few minutes, I heard my daughter say, "I know how we can work her in." She explained her idea, and the other two girls agreed. In no time, all four girls were happily playing.
When I tucked my daughter in last night, I complimented her on making sure the other girl was included. "You were watching that?" she asked.
The whole time the exchange between the four girls was going on, I assumed that my daughter knew I was watching. I assumed that my watching was one of the reasons she chose to do the right thing, but she didn't even know I had my eye on her. She did the right thing simply because it was the right thing to do.
The whole situation reminded me that it's our goal to teach our kids to do the right thing even when no one is watching. It's our goal to teach them to live up to God's standards even when we aren't around. It's our goal to help them make good choices when we are with them so that they can make the same good choices when we aren't there.
From the time my girls were little, we've always talked about not leaving other people out of something for no reason. We've talked about how that would make us feel if we were the ones being left out. We've talked about how God loves all of us and expects us to show His love to others. Some days, I've wondered if either of my girls were listening.
But last night, I got to see the fruits of all that talking, all that encouraging, and all that sometimes forced inclusion. I got to see my little girl make a mature decision. I got to see her persevere for what was right even when her first attempt failed. I got to see her live out the words of Galatians 6:9: "Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up."
So, today, I want to encourage you to keep on talking to your kids. Keep teaching them what is right. Keep repeating yourselves as many times as it takes to get the message through. Because someday when you least expect it, someday when your kids don't even know you're watching, they will persevere in doing good. They will make the right choice simply because it's the right thing to do. They will live out the lessons you've been teaching even though no one is watching.
And they will do it because you were persistent in teaching those lessons.