I don't even know how it really happened, but my best guess would have to be back in November or December. Our local Boy Scouts send out grocery bags and at a later date collect those same bags from your door step, filled with items for our local food pantry. "Mommy what are you doing with those bags?" "Why are you putting paper towels and food in them?"
As I went on to explain why we were taking items out of our pantry and giving them to someone else, I would have to guess that it was the beginning to the amazing choice my son made about what he wanted his birthday guests to bring him.
"I want food!" Huh? As he began to explain to me more about what he meant by "food" I realized what he meant. Instead of presents and toys, he wanted his guests to bring food items for our local food pantry. I was and am so incredibly proud of him. I feel guilty even saying it, but I sort of tried to talk him out of it. Not by telling him it was a bad idea, but constantly asking him, "Are you sure? Just remember you won't have any presents to open." Double checking before I printed the invitations, "Are you sure?" He always said YES! He was sure of what he wanted and he wanted food!
Now, my constant asking was not done in a negative way, but I guess I was trying to make sure that this is what he truly wanted. Something that sounded like a good idea, but then at the party when there were no presents to open, a meltdown. Also, I recognized there might be some "holier-than-thou" or "do-gooder" criticisms. As I typed it out, I worked hard to not sound that way and to get across that this is truly what Trey wanted and not a work of his mom and dad.
Then I realized I had to respect his wishes and let naysayers speak and know that my son had made the choice to be truly selfless. I would rather people project their negativity on me anyway, than toward my son.
He was so excited to take the items. He just had the biggest smile on his face and kept asking me all sorts of questions about the food pantry. Why was it called a pantry? Did it look just like our pantry at home? Why are there toys inside the food pantry?
He was not the only witness to the food pantry, so were his sisters! They got to learn about the food pantry and how they help people in need too. I feel incredibly blessed that they were able to learn about the work of the food pantry on the side of donation and not assistance. I realize that anything can happen (natural disaster, unexpected job loss, fire, etc.) and we never know if we will be on the side of needing their assistance one day.
On the way home I said to him, "Do you know how many people you helped, by making the decision to choose food donations over presents?" In true kindergartner fashion he responded by saying, "10 hundred thousand?" I told him it wasn't quite that number but still a lot. Up until this point, I still was questioning and hoping that he really understood what this donation meant, but what he said afterward sealed it. I knew, that he knew he was helping people and it was what he wanted to do.
"But I want to help everyone!"
There was such a joy in my heart, when he told me that! "Well buddy, you have to keep giving!" I do not deserve to have a child who has a better and bigger heart than I do! God has abundantly blessed me with a child who loves God and wants to "help everyone".
Here's the takeaway. We can't help everyone in a one-time gift. We have to keep giving. They same people helped by his donation and that of his guests, maybe won't need help tomorrow, but someone else will. I pray it would never be us, but I can't guarantee that. I plan on nurturing his need to give, after our rummage sale this summer. Any clothes not sold by the end will go to our local Goodwill. I told him that he could come with when we do that drop off as well.
I will definitely be researching ways to help encourage the need to give in each of my children. If you have some helpful, easy, inexpensive ways to give to those around us please share them. I've seen people who just hand out notes of encouragement to strangers. People that leave Christmas cards in the canister at the bank drive-thru for the next person who comes along. "God loves a cheerful giver" and I want to keep encouraging the joy of giving in my children.