Thanksgiving morning was an amazing opportunity for my son Aiden (age five) and me. We decided to volunteer with Aiden’s grandparents with the Salvation Army, delivering meals to those who were unable to provide for themselves (because of age; transportation, etc). I want my son to understand the spirit of giving and that he is fortunate to have everything he does.
We had 10 meals to deliver to various homes/apartments in Phoenix. My son was required (by me) to shake each person’s hand and say, “Happy Thanksgiving.” This might be the only human contact and interaction they have all day.
While all of the people made an impact on my son, two really stood out. We visited the home of a gentleman whose entire house was no bigger than a 10-by-10 room. He lived by himself and had only a bed and a sink. Immediately upon leaving the house my son asked questions about the fact that his entire house was only one room. “Where is his kitchen Mom?” he wanted to know. He didn’t have a kitchen, or a living room, or a television. A hard concept for a 5-year-old to grasp. The second person that stood out was a homeless person we found to give our one extra meal. He was sitting by himself and was so happy that we offered him a meal that he was unable to interact with us.
The conversation when we were back in the car:
“Where does he take a shower Mom?”
“I’m not sure, where do you think he takes a shower?”
“Maybe a restaurant or a gas station?”
“That is probably correct.”
My son sat and thought about that for a few minutes. Then he immediately wanted to go home and bring this gentleman money so he could have a home, too. I had to explain that we could donate money to help the homeless but we probably would not be able to find this same gentleman again.
A few minutes later on the drive home my son looked at me and said, “Mom, we sure are lucky right?” I could have said yes son we are (and yes, in the view of things we are lucky). But I decided to turn this into a teachable moment.
I looked at my son and said, “Aiden, we are not lucky -- we are fortunate. We work really hard for the things that we have and we make good decisions. We live in a house with a kitchen, have a car and television because we make good decisions and work hard.”
I realize most people don’t choose to be homeless, nor do everyone’s poor decisions result in homelessness. And even those that do work hard and make good decisions may find themselves in a bad way.
My son has a lot of compassion for one so young. I want to be sure he understands the consequences of his actions…good and bad.
I am always talking to my son about the decisions he makes. The last thing I say before he gets on the bus each day is, “I love you, make good decisions today.”