I’ve been trying to figure out a way to explain charity and how it works and what it means deep down where it matters to Joey and I’ll admit it’s been hard. He’s an only child, and for the first 4 1/2 years of his life we didn’t have a ton of friends that came to our house to play since we lived so far outside the bigger city limits but instead we’re always driving in to Rancho Cordova or Folsom to hook up with the majority of friends we’d made through a local play group and as a result he didn’t really learn how to share “his” toys, family or food. Since moving to Mather this past May we’ve made huge strides in this area. Don’t get me wrong, he was always willing to share toys, snack, whatever was at hand when we were out and about but usually it was a community share – he’d be playing with the toys at whatever location we’d be meeting at (not his own) and he willingly would hand over the truck, ball or Cheese It’s to anyone who asked. Not the same premise when asked to do the same with his own things, in his own house. Suddenly everything was labeled his “special” toy, food treat, Momma and that meant he didn’t have to share it. We’ve had to redefine the role of what’s really special and that he can only choose one special toy a day that he does not have to share with whomever we’re having over to play that day. It’s been a trial, but he’s finally beginning to understand and to think of his friends feelings if not first, then at least equally with his own. It makes me feel proud to see him grow in this way.
He now allows me to give hugs and even kisses, though as soon as his friend has turned away from me he’ll come over to wipe their kisses off my face and to replace their hugs with one of his own. That’s okay with me because one, it’s progress, and two, I know it’s just because he loves me best and with his whole heart.
All of his friends who are already in elementary school have been doing fundraisers of one kind or another – Entertainment books, coupon books, candles, etc. and Joey’s school just doesn’t do those things. They charge to attend and therefore don’t necessarily have the same financial needs to be met because of state cutbacks as our public schools do. That’s all fine and well, but if his friends get to go door to door then he wants to do it too. For the month of November his school collects brand new socks for their Christmas Mall (where low-income and homeless can come shop for their families) and canned and non-perishable food items for the Rancho Cordova Food Locker. Finally a “fundraiser” that he can participate in. So after sitting down and explaining what they were doing and why, a reaffirmation of what had already been shared by his teachers, we discussed if it was something he’d like to participate in by going around our neighborhood and asking our neighbors if they’d like to donate to the food locker. I barely got the words out of my mouth before he’s hopping up and down, saying “yes Momma, let’s go now”. Of course it was raining and continued to rain on and off for the next couple of days so he had to wait, impatiently, for his chance to do his fundraiser.
Today the weather was beautiful and so after a morning spent at the park, Joey and his two pals Trevor and Garrett, and I set off with wagons in tow to do our soliciting. We practiced what we would say, how to be professional and to say thank you whether they chose to participate or not at this time. Trevor, the oldest of the three got his speech down after just a handful of houses, Garrett just asked for cans, and Joey tried to remember what we were asking for and why but usually ended up telling people we needed food to feed the children which drew a lot of looks in my direction on the sidewalk in which I’d have to elaborate that we were asking for donations on behalf of the RC Food Locker to help low-income and homeless families receive proper nutrition. We got a lot of no’s, or that they’d already donated (we’re not the only school who collects for this organization) but the boys persevered and we got a number of positive responses as well. Sometimes just a can, sometimes a bag with several items, but regardless of the response each drew a respectful thank you. The folks who donated got a kick out of the boys routine, how they’d always look to see what kind of food was in the can and how they would say how they loved those, or “what is this”, or “have I ever had this before?” When one gentleman handed Garrett and Joey each a can of tuna fish Joey turned to me and yelled, “Look Momma we got cat food, now their kitties can eat too!”. Both the gentleman and I had to laugh out loud and I had to explain that was for people and not cats but I could understand how he’d get confused since it has a fish on the can and is the same size as the cans of cat food we fed to our kitties.
After a little over an hour we were tired, the boys hot and thirsty, and our wagons were getting to heavy for the boys to pull by themselves so we headed home. I was so proud of how they’d handled themselves and how excited all three of them were to be able to give back to their community and to know that they had personally helped people to have food to eat that otherwise might have had to go to bed with a grumbly tummy because they were still hungry. Now that Joey has begun to realize what it means to contribute to his community I want to come up with a way that we can do something each month, that a 5-year old could comprehend, to keep him on the path of giving from his heart. If you have any ideas, please post them in a comment so I can see if their doable in our area. In the meantime I need to wrap this up so I can research ways that I can begin giving from my heart to my community as it’s been a while and I need to hold myself as accountable as Joey is holding himself.