"Remember that the happiest people are not those getting more, but those giving more." - H Jackson Brown Jr.
It happened in Walmart. Not the most spectacular place to have a moment of awakening, perhaps, but it was profound nonetheless. I was shopping for our 5 days of Kindness initiative, this time in support of Family and Children's Services of the Waterloo Region, and had brought along my children (21, 17 and 14) to help. We had a list of items that I knew I had to pick up, and then a wish list from the family HeartBeatsHate had “adopted” for this holiday season.
This wasn't my kids’ first time at the giving rodeo. In fact, each year we adopt a cause to give back to together. It helps to serve as a reminder of the importance of showing kindness and celebrating all that we have. But, something was different for my kids this year.
The family we'd been assigned included only two people: a 63-year-old woman and an 18-month-old girl. Maybe it was the ages of the “adopted” family. Maybe it was my kids’ ages. Perhaps it was the years of doing this. Regardless, something clicked. Collectively.
“The older woman must be a grandma, right?” our middle daughter asked.
I replied that I was guessing that or an aunt or another sort of foster situation.
“That’s Mimi’s age,” our youngest, our only boy, commented.
The three looked at each other. By reading their faces I assumed they were thinking about what it would be like to live with their grandma as teens and young adults. And then puzzling over how it would work if they were even younger.
“What is she asking for?” the oldest asked.
I read the list aloud. Warm pajamas, slippers, and warm, comfortable clothes.
“That’s it?” she asked as a follow-up.
The three beelined to the women’s section. I’ve never seen such effort and concentration in picking out a pair of pjs before. Colour. Warmth. Softness. There was a discussion about a coziness factor. And whether the style was too young - or too old - for this person.
When they decided on a pair they set off to find matching slippers and a warm cardigan.
Next came the little girl. They again spent time agonizing over clothes - as cute as the seasonal outfits were, they wanted something that might last. Then toys. What would be educational? What was cool or in right now (they decided Paw Patrol would be a hit). Books - they knew they needed those.
They were focused and serious about this task. Intent on finding things that would make the holidays brighter - and warmer - for this little family.
With their items chosen they added up the cost. Looking at their cart, I could tell we were over the budget we had set - and they knew it too. Before I could say a word they presented a unified, rehearsed speech: “We talked about it. We’re each pitching in $10 of our own. There’s nothing here that can go back.”
We left the store on a high. The kids - quick to quibble over not having enough money, or asking for an extra $5 for lunch or to go to the movies - seemed happy to part with a combined total of $30. Sure, it wasn’t a huge amount of money - but that’s not ever really the point, is it? It was the generosity. The ease with which they gave. And the feeling it left them with.
Over the weekend, the feeling seemed to continue. They were more generous with each other. Quicker to help around the house. Slower to complain when asked to do a chore. When it came time to share their own holiday wish lists, I noted that they were shorter. And was warmed when I noticed each one included a donation to or a purchase from a charity of their choosing.
This year, each of them received an amazing gift. The gift of giving. And now they’re each passing that gift on. And that’s how we change the world.