My daughter has always been observant to an uncanny degree. This means, first of all, that you cannot have “for grown-up ears only” conversations around her, make promises (or threats) you don’t intend to keep, or expect her to simply forget about the slightly traumatizing or embarrassing event from last week. (I know. Typical, right?) But it also means that as a two-year-old, she recognized the insanity of the suburban grocery store situation.
One day after picking her up from the babysitter, I said, “Okay, Annalyn, we’re going to go to the store now.” As we drove down the highway, she asked, “What store?” and I answered, “HyVee.”
All was well – until we pulled into the parking lot and started walking toward the store. Toddling along, holding my hand, she looked up and shouted, “NO! No, Mommy! This is the wrong HyVee!”
She was just two years old, but already she was realizing that in this suburban setting, we can find a grocery store on just about every corner.
Of course, as she was also learning, not all grocery stores are created equal. For example, the big box store where we usually buy groceries is a smaller version of the big box store a few more miles down the road. When it was first converted to a superstore with groceries, I was super excited. Driving fewer miles to buy groceries was a definite plus, but I was also relieved to shop in a store slightly smaller than the Atlanta airport.
Until I couldn’t find the right peanut butter. Or deodorant. Or soy milk.
See, it turns out that we traded miles of walking for a smaller selection. That makes sense, of course, and isn’t the end of the world by any measure. But you wouldn’t have known that from my initial reaction. “What the heck? How could they have all these other salsas but not the one I want? What is wrong with this store? Stupid store.”
We live in a small house in an old, deteriorating neighborhood. Nearly every room in our home is broken in some way, and my car drives like it’s one gear shift away from a failed transmission. Every holiday, date night, birthday party and new outfit stresses out my budget and me. And we carry a much higher balance on our credit card than I like to admit. However, by the standards of a huge majority of people in this world, we are wealthy. Not just comfortable, but rich.
How, then, do I teach Annalyn a healthy perspective on all our blessings, as well as a grateful and giving heart?
We do it by talking about having a grateful heart, reading stories about thankfulness and sharing, praying before meals and thanking God for all He’s given us every night before bed. We send thank you notes for gifts, and when it’s appropriate, I point out how much more we have than others – and how that means we must share with others. (Okay, fine, sometimes it’s more frustration than an appropriate teachable moment. But can you blame me, when I hear the words, “Is that all?” for the umpteenth time in one back-to-school shopping trip?)
Another way we teach Annalyn about gratitude and giving is by sponsoring two children through Compassion. Though her four-year-old brain hasn’t quite made the connection between “our girls in Africa” and her daily life, she does get really excited to write letters and send stickers and colored pictures for Elizabeth and Christine.
September is Compassion Blog Month, and I’ll be participating with sharing some thoughts and stories about Compassion with you once a week. Full disclosure: I write about Compassion to support an organization that I believe in wholeheartedly. But I also write about Compassion in hopes that you will sponsor a child and release him (or her) from poverty. Just $38 a month makes a world of difference to a child with nothing. For us, though, it’s merely doing without one weeknight trip to that grocery store down the corner.
How do you teach your kids about gratitude and giving? Will you consider sponsoring a child through Compassion?