One Sunday afternoon, I was shuffling through the stack of papers that had accumulated on my kitchen counter.

One paper–obviously a letter–caught my eye. I glanced to see who it was from, but the ink at the bottom of the page had faded into oblivion. This was apparently the second page of the letter, too, since the opening was missing.

As I glanced through the paragraphs, I realized this was a personal, private letter which contained volatile information. It wasn’t the type of letter that the sender would want just anyone to see.

I was baffled! Who was this from? How had it gotten onto my counter?

I turned it over. The half colored picture of Larry Boy on the other side jogged my memory. This was the picture my daughter (who was a preschooler at the time) had colored at her friend Lydia’s* house. I flipped the paper back over and let the realization seep in.

This letter was written by Lydia’s dad–our friend. His ink cartridge must have run out before this rather delicate subject matter was fully printed. Had he tossed it into a pile of scrap paper? And then recycled it to print out Veggie Tales coloring sheets for Lydia? No matter the details, I was quite sure he hadn’t planned on it ending up on my kitchen counter.

But that’s what happens when you have kids. The things that you considered private, hidden, and secure suddenly get displayed under other people’s refrigerator magnets. Your thoughts and attitudes get shuffled into various homes and relational webs, not because your child intends to propagate your agendas; She simply shares the things you gave her from your scrap pile.

I never mentioned this incident to our friend. We’ve since lost touch and I’m sure he has no recollection of that half-printed letter on the back of a Larry Boy sheet. But many years later, I remember it well. It makes me want to take inventory of my own scrap pile. What have I absently handed to my kids? What messages have I inadvertently sent home with their friends?

As a parent, my influence goes everywhere my kids do. Sometimes farther than I intended. Is my ‘recycled material’ pleasing to the Lord?

*not her real name… Don’t ask. I am a vault. 🙂

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