I grew up having everything that I wanted or needed. When I was small, like in most young families, my parents had less because they were just getting going. By the time that I was about seven however, we lived in an exclusive midwestern suburb where the lines that the lawnmower made were expected to be perfectly straight. I never liked it there; I never could seem to fit in. The place I found myself in was a place that provided me with everything that I could possibly need in the material sense, yet provided nothing for me on the spiritual level.
I don’t know how my mother managed to get through to me, when we lived in such an environment. Persistence, repetition and unconditional love did it, I suppose. My mother was always my very best friend growing up, because I had a terrible time forming any bond with other children. My mother reminded me daily how blessed, (she used the word lucky), we were. She never failed to remind me of the things that we had that others did not. She never neglected to mention that it was painful for her to throw out food that had gone bad, and it was common for me to find her crying over the evening news.
Maybe I found a way to understand because there was something that I was starving for all along. I was starving for a sense of community. I was starved for intelligent peers to share ideas with. I was starved for a sense of belonging, or maybe simply for someone to acknowledge that even though I was the black sheep, I should be happy to be just that. The message came through to me loud and clear. I want for my children to understand how blessed they are today, and I am not going to rely on some lucky chance that the message will find them.
I do the same things that my mother did. I always voice my disappointment when my kids waste anything. Pencils, food, toys, paper, any object that they abuse carelessly. The reason that I am so adamant about it is not because we are unable to afford to replace these items, but because I want for my children to show them respect. I want for my kids to know that there are children out there who do not have any of these things. Slow down, remember, and be grateful. My children often find me crying at the news. Whether it is news from the television or on the internet, I would say that it is a daily occurrence. My tears don’t frighten or upset my children. They are used to me crying and they know that it simply comes from the fact that I care.
Going beyond the steps that my own parents took in teaching me gratefulness as a child, my husband and I have made a point to expose our kids to the realities of people who are in need. I think that it is important that children not be sheltered from the suffering that happens in our world. It only leads to making them more grateful for what they have. My husband and I watched the Kony video with out kids two years ago. Our kids volunteer at a farm that helps to grow food for the homeless. My youngest daughter has started a campaign to raise money for camp sunshine, where childhood cancer patients get an opportunity to go to camp.
My grandmother used to explain to me the situation happening with the people up the road. They had three children, two of them had turned out to be not very good people. She told me that the parents were wonderful people, and it was just bad luck that they ended up with two really lousy human beings for kids. “Those poor people...” She would say. I don’t believe that for a minute. They may have been perfectly nice people themselves, but somewhere along the line they weren’t taking the right steps to raise mentally healthy kids. Maybe gratefulness was an element that they were neglecting to teach. I see it a lot in today’s world. More though, I see people working harder to raise strong healthy kids: children who will grow into grateful and healthy adults. Thanks to all of you, I am thankful for you every day.
The Kony video is very violent. Our youngest was seven when we all watched it together, and we paused it often to give the children explanations. If you have not seen it it is quite powerful. Here is the link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y4MnpzG5Sqc
If you are interested in hearing the story of how my daughter started her campaign for Camp Sunshine you can read it here: http://sillymommyluni.blogspot.com/2013/08/dont-ask-give.html
If you are interested in seeing my daughter's donation page you can follow this link: http://www.gofundme.com/3znfzo
A special thank you to everyone who has donated to Camp Sunshine. It means the world to Rory.