I became an advocate of “right and wrong” at a very early age. I found some money outside a store when I was a little girl and I never told the story to anyone, but my mom proudly told it to her friends as I was growing up. My son did the exact same thing when he was visiting his grandma one summer, although he had never heard about the story from her ahead of time. After that she proudly shared that both her daughter and grandson did not keep the new-found treasure, and had instead returned it to “someone in charge.”
My young grandson recently suggested that I “steal” an orange cup that my mom liked at the popular “Snooze” breakfast restaurant on her birthday. This word was so glaring and completely unlike my sweet grandkids, that I was sick inside. My innocent Aden was learning about one of The Ten Commandments that will help guide him every day during the rest of his life. I was determined to handle this in a gentle way.
I asked where he had heard about stealing and if he knew what it meant. It had come from one of his more “worldly” 6-year old friends and he only knew that it meant to take something that someone wanted. I didn’t respond, as his answer was correct. I knew the right moment would come up to teach both he and his little sister about what this ugly word meant and how it effects other people’s lives. It might have been a tiny little thing, no big deal to others, but it could also be something that they think about forever.
My mom enjoyed drinking water from this little silly orange cup, a major feat since she hates water and is always coughing and strangling from her dehydration. Her daily intake includes a cup of powdered coffee filled with lots of sugar and powdered milk in the morning and a few glasses of iced tea through the day where she only drinks a sip or two. But at 87 she is determined to “do it her way” along with everything else she does.
After our breakfast, I asked the hostess if I could buy a cup for my mom since she liked it so much. She paused and thought about it briefly, then handed one to me. She said they weren’t for sale but she would be happy to give it to my mom, no big deal at all. I knew the learning moment had arrived. When we were driving home after the kids had settled into their car seats, I looked back at them and said that I didn’t have to steal the cup, I merely had to offer to buy it. End of story. A perfect ending to my important lesson about stealing, right?
Nope. The lesson wasn’t over quite yet. My 4-year old granddaughter then softly said, “Well, that’s just like stealing, right Nana?” I hesitated, wanting to make sure my words were the right ones, and not wanting to react harshly. I carefully explained that the cup had been a gift for her great-grandma and asked Maggie if she liked gifts, her big number “5” birthday coming up in a month. She giggled and said, “I love getting LOTS of gifts.”
I carefully explained that the young woman had given a gift to GG Kay and that it was a kind and generous thing to do. That we should always look for ways to help others and give small gifts when given the right opportunity. That if we had “stolen” the cup, we were taking something that didn’t belong to us and it would hurt that person’s feelings. I asked them both how they would feel if one of their friends took their favorite toy away from them and they said it would make them feel sad.
A couple of hours later we were in Walmart, buying some cards for my mom and a few things for my precious grandkids. It’s really hard not to buy them stuff when they look pleadingly into your eyes. I can leave them a legacy when I die, but it is so much fun to buy some silly junk when I can see their reaction. It isn’t about spoiling them, its about the joy I get when I see their little faces light up. It won’t change what happens to them when they are adults, but these memories are forever in my heart.
But I am going to start giving them a few of the dollars that I would have spent on them to buy something to give away when we are out shopping. There are always families standing on corners around town and I am certain that those young kids would love a small toy too. I learned this as we were leaving Walmart a short-time later.
I had four quarters and they wanted to ride a silly Mickey Mouse car ride, similar to the old pony rides at the grocery store. I had one quarter left over and a young Hispanic boy was standing by us, quietly watching. There was no parent or grandparent around, his babysitter was the arcade room. I handed him the quarter and pointed to the colorful orbs filled with gum and treats. He happily pointed to a jumbo cherry gum ball machine and watched intently as the red ball rolled out into has little hands. He plopped it happily in is mouth. I felt kind of bad….what if his mom didn’t want him eating sugar? Well, she wasn’t there and so I felt good inside.
As we walked to the car, my grandson said “That was a gift, wasn’t it Nana?” I responded and said yes, and that we should always do small things to help other people, like give away toys we don’t use anymore or clothes or other things that could help people. My dear little granddaughter said, “That’s what we do when we are with Daddy and Mommy in the car, we hand out water bottles and sandwiches to people standing on the corner.”
What a perfect example of how parents should raise their children. I am so proud of my son and daughter-in-law for raising thoughtful and caring children who will change the world into a better place, one small gift at a time.
Take the time to gather up some items today to donate to your favorite charity or church. Or better yet, make a cash contribution to a cause that is near and dear to your heart, like the high-school summer camp at my church in Phoenix that serves over 2,000 students each year. Many students come back each summer and are baptized following camp, committing their life to God and to becoming disciples for the rest of their lives. They became global leaders at that moment, concerned about the world they live in now and leave for future generations.
Give from your heart, it will put a smile on your face and fill you with endless joy. It’s not about tithing, it’s about “doing the right thing” for others. I loved this line that I heard at a seminar a few years ago. “We can’t hook up a U-Haul to take all of our worldly possessions to heaven. We will leave this earth as we came into it.” Timothy 6:7
Let’s be like the poor widow who gave more than all of the rich people did in Luke 21:1-4. God will always provide for us if we are generous with others, Philippians 4:19.