My daughter recently turned nine, and we felt like we had spoiled her with gifts on her special day. We found ourselves having to repeatedly tell her, “be grateful,” a message that we’ve have always tried to instill in our house from day one. Yet, she easily gets caught up in the “give me's.” Each time I have to remind her, I promise myself to find more ways to teach her how to be more grateful. Perhaps, I need reminding as well. Often when I tell her we don't have money for something, I feel a pang of guilt. Why should I feel guilty over this? Money isn't everything. We have what we need. I need to remember that it's okay for her to understand when we don't have money for everything she wants.
On a recent camping trip, I took some time to tell her that some people live in tents every day. They don't have a choice. It's how it is. They camp in the heat without fans. Sometimes, they don't even have tents. It surprised me when she asked, “Do you mean like those people who sit on corners with signs?” I am sure she has asked before and I glossed it over. However, something clicked because she was pointing it out to me.
I decided on that trip that I need to discuss these issues with her more. I started small with letting the news stay on when she was in the car. It sparked some conversations about war and children in those wars. It wasn't easy. I was definitely uncomfortable. She, however, grasped some of the most basic parts of the story. “That must be so scary for them.” “Yes, I am sure it is. In some places children don't have a childhood. They are working or going to war when they are only seven or eight.” We talked about how lucky we are that we are able to go to school and play; that she has years before she even has to worry about a job.
For the past four years we have participated in Guest at Your Table. This is a charity where for several months, typically November through January, you collect change and donate it. This change feeds so many other children! This year, we will have the box on the table for when we have company over. We will talk about it. We will use this time as a time to widen our compassion. We will use this time to be grateful for what we do have.
It doesn't necessarily have to be this charity. It doesn't necessarily have to stop in January. Perhaps our New Years resolution will be to do this year round. A reminder that even pocket change can add up and feed another family meals. It’s also important that we can expand this to include that you don't have to know exactly who it is helping, as long as it is helping someone.
This may be a big challenge to teach a 9-year-old. Her needs are met, our needs are met and sometimes our needs are exceeded. We will start small, and hope that these little steps can make big changes for those in need.