This was one of my very first posts from a few ago when I began blogging. It's also one of my first articles to be published in a regional magazine. It has always been one of my favorite "life lessons" that I learned from my children.
Many years ago during the early years of our marriage, my husband and I were preparing for yet another Christmas holiday, putting together our gift list and planning to give to a very worthy cause.
My brother had told us of a church nearby that had parked a semi-truck in their parking lot and were going to fill it with furniture, gifts, toys and clothes and drive it to a community in Mexico to be distributed to the needy villagers there.
We were struggling financially, so there were no new items to purchase, however, we had plenty of extra clothes and toys we could donate.
I went through my closet and pulled out a large pile of clothes that we no longer wanted or needed, picked out a few other items from around the house, then went to talk to my 4-year-old son about going through his toy box to give from his abundant collection of unwanted toys.
I explained to him that his toys would be going to children who may have never had their own toys and many had no parents or family to help meet their needs. We discussed how very sad their life was in comparison to ours, and although we didn't have much money, we would be considered rich in their eyes. I told him how any toys that he decided to give away would help put a smile on the face of a needy child many miles away.
I left him alone in his room so he could sort through his toys so he could choose the toys he didn't want to play with anymore. A few moments later, he emerged from his room with two contributions; a fuzzy lamb backpack full of books and a pair of "Pound Puppy" house shoes.
He handed them to me and said, " Here Mommy. Give these to those kids to make them happy."
When I saw his gift choices, I thought he had misunderstood what was going to happen to his gifts.
"Now, you won't be seeing these again, they will stay in Mexico with the kids", I said, certain that he must have been too young to understand this concept.
"I know. I don't think they have puppy shoes and lamb backpacks in Mexico", he explained.
In that moment, my entire perspective on giving to the needy changed.
Let me explain the significance of his gifts.
Each morning when he awoke, he would fill this lamb backpack, (his favorite) with books for me to read to him each day. If we finished reading those books, he would refill it. He would walk around the house wearing this backpack and would take one out and ask me to read one aloud to him. He loved the backpack, and so enjoyed the many books we would read together.
The "Pound Puppy" shoes basically never came off his feet unless we were going out of the house. He would even sleep in them! They were just white slippers with puppy heads on them but he was so attached to these little shoes.
I looked at the two gifts he had chosen to give, then I glanced at the LARGE pile of "gifts" I had chosen to give.
Mine were clothes that were out of style, didn't fit , or things I just didn't care to keep. His were the two most cherished items from his collection of treasures.
I was immediately humbled.
A four-year-old child was giving the very best he had to someone he didn't even know because he wanted to make them smile. He was HAPPY to give his most cherished possessions if it meant making life better for someone else.
I went back to my closet, picked out my best Sunday dress, with the matching shoes and purse and laid them on the top of my pile as I asked forgiveness for my very selfish "generosity".
I really had not given anything. I was getting rid of things I didn't want to help make space for the new and improved items that would soon take their place.
My four-year-old child led the way to inspire my giving from a heart of love and true compassion.
As we make our plans to give again during this season, ask yourself a couple of questions?
What can I give that would put a smile on some one's face?
How can I help lighten some one's load?
Am I truly giving from a heart touched by compassion or am I just giving my "sloppy seconds"?
Will you allow a child lead you?