Over the years, Saul and I have added to our family. First it was a dog (RIP Robby Dog Phillips). Then it was our three biological children. Then it was another dog (Dakota is currently sleeping next to me in my office). Then it was two precious boys, the same age as our middle son, Charlie. One of the boys we met in second grade and the other we met in sixth grade. The boys are all in 7th grade now and for a variety of reasons, they are back living with their grandmothers.

It leaves me wondering, Is what we did enough?

If I let it, my mind will form a cyclone around thoughts like,

Did I show them God?

Did I speak life into their broken hearts?

Did they get the message that they can do anything in this world?

Do they understand their history doesn’t define them, it prepares them to help another?

Will they someday choose to build a home that is drug free and drama free?

Will they become men of integrity?

I wonder if you ever wonder if the short time you had to encourage another person really mattered? Sometimes we wait a lifetime and never really know.

I spent my teenage years living between three houses: my dad’s, my Aunt Mary’s, and the Balkansky’s.

Each home was so different from the next.

My dad was a single father, living in a duplex, who was literally cleaning a shotgun the night my boyfriend brought me home late.

My Aunt Mary was a wife and a mom. She baked chocolate chip cookies when I was too sad to come out of the room she had given me at her house. She knew my sweet-tooth could never say no to the smell of her fresh baked cookies.

The Balkanskys were the parents of a very close friend. Their home was the largest I’d ever seen. Their cars were the nicest I’d ever ridden in. They laughed together more than any family I had ever met.

Now as an adult, I can see how each of them added an essential component into my young life.

My dad never had a problem calling me out when I was wrong, but it was only because he believed I could do something great with my life. Today I know it’s healthy and possible to give my kids a strong dose of discipline without crushing their spirits.

My Aunt Mary always had soft music and a night light in her kitchen. It was a warm place to be and the perfect spot to be reminded that my teenage angst was indeed a phase.

Mrs. Balkansky always went to bat for me. She told my dad when he was being too stern. She confronted a teacher who said some very out-of-line things to me. And she’d drive me back to school in the afternoon so we could dig through the trash for my lost retainer before the garbage was taken out.

I’m convinced none of those people knew exactly what they were doing. They were working off their strengths and hoping for the best.

But what they gave to me, even unintentionally, mattered. It mattered a lot.

What you’re giving matters. It might be hard and messy or at the very least tiring, but your unique brand of kindness adds an essential element to another person’s life. Especially if that person is a child.

So take heart today, my friend, that whomever you’re walking through life with: your children, a student, a neighbor or a friend, the seeds you are planting will blossom.

Even if you feel like you have no idea what you’re doing.