As I have stated many times, when I was pregnant, Matthew and I had a conversation about what we would teach our kid if we could only teach him one thing. I immediately said kindness. I stated if he is kind, I feel like everything else takes care of itself. I continue to stand firm in this belief and have tried my hardest to teach K kindness every chance I can. Along with being kind, I also want him to be grateful for what he has… yes I know his is only three (almost four), but I honestly feel it is never too soon to teach him to appreciate the things he has.
As an only child and only one of two or three grandchildren on two (out of three) sets of grandparents, the child is not lacking for any toy or experience. We are all fortunate. I continue to ask Matthew how do we raise him to be thankful. I don’t want him to feel guilty for what he has, but I want him to appreciate it and realize we are in the position to help others. I ask myself how to teach these values?
A few years ago I realized K’s birthday is a wonderful celebration, but at the same time a moment of abundance. He has a fun party at home filled with decorations, food, games, and presents… so many presents. His second birthday party I stated on the invitation no gifts, but please bring a book to donate. He got presents and books to donate. After that year I was still searching for a way to help him learn how to be grateful.
Last year I stumbled upon the amazing organization Sharing Happy Birthdays. It is an organization started by a mom because she realized every kid deserves a birthday party, yet many don’t ever get one. To participate you can create a birthday box and deliver it to a shelter for a child’s birthday. I immediately realized it was the perfect opportunity. We did a box last year during the month of K’s birthday and had a great time doing it. K was almost three so didn’t really understand, but he enjoyed picking out superhero birthday decorations and toys.
This year we decided to do it again. We got a little boy named E who will turn three the day before K turns four. Little E requested a Minions birthday party. K loved helping us pick things out (thank you Amazon Prime). We explained how E needed a birthday party so we were going to help. We had the box ready and today was the day to deliver the box. I had the address and knew a drive to South Austin would take some time.
When I picked K up from school, I told him we were going to drop off the birthday box. He got so excited and ran to his teacher to tell her he was taking E his birthday. K was content to watch Mickey Mouse in the backseat with some Skittles as we drove the forty miles. As we drove up to the address there were gates everywhere. It was clear, we were at a shelter to protect those who have been the victim of some type of abuse.
As I pulled up to the building, K said from the backseat “I don’t think he lives here.” My heart sank and I wanted to roll into a ball on the floor. He is right, no child should have to live behind fences and gates. To K this isn’t a home. Instead of crawling into the floor, I got out and got K out. We went through a secure gate and door before we dropped off the box. K continued watching his Mickey Mouse on the way home and I thought… more like my heart ached.
This was not the first time I had seen this type of shelter. I counseled many who had suffered abuse… but this was the first time I saw this type of shelter through my son’s eyes. I realized at the moment how thankful I am Suzanne started Sharing Happy Birthdays and let our family help, even in such a small way. I was thankful that something as small as creating a birthday box could bring a smile to a little boy’s face.
As we got home and K told Matthew about his day (Matthew had lacrosse practice and couldn’t go with us), K said “if we didn’t help, E would be sad.” Such simple but true words. You see if each of us don’t help in whatever way we can, others will be sad. We each have the ability to bring a smile to a face. We don’t have to change the world, we merely need to be kind.