Friday, August 8, 2014

When Generosity is Contagious

Mid summer found my 7 1/2 year old son going through his toys and choosing those he didn't really play with anymore.  Perhaps it was a desire to make room for toys coming this Christmas and his birthday four days later.  Or maybe he finally absorbed those conversations about giving to those who are in need.

Whatever the reason, Wyatt was adamant that the people at the nursing home were sad because they didn't have any toys to play with.  He was going to remedy that problem while off for summer vacation.

I raised more than one skeptical eyebrow, unconvinced a sweet grandma or grandpa would want a plastic Skylander toy from McDonald's.  He would not be swayed, though, pestering me for days with increasing urgency until he finally took a plastic grocery bag and began the process without me.  Younger brother and sister tattled (of course), so I abandoned the kitchen clean-up and climbed the stairs.

There I sat atop a plush universe of stars and planets, watching this unprompted spring cleaning with amusement...and making sure he didn't chunk something precious to this mother.  He prattled on the entire time, picking up each precious item in turn, scrunching his face in concentration as he examined it, then explaining aloud why it should go or stay.  Each time, he glanced over at me for confirmation.

Sure, the Sock Monkey could go.  It had hung from his bed for many years and he loved it, but yes, he didn't play with it.  Why not.  Into the bags followed a glitter ball, numerous plastic kids meal toys, a bracelet, and several cupcake rings.  I shook my head 'no' when he tried to include the yellow dragonfly with its crinkly wings, the one that sang to him in the crib before nap time.

My son then began to count the days till our church's scheduled monthly turn to conduct a worship service at our local nursing home.  By mid July, Wyatt wasn't the only one who had decided to give of his possessions to the residents.   Siblings Emerson and Amelia went through their prized items as well, Emerson choosing a prized puppy that walked when he flipped a switch on its belly and Amelia offering up a small orange bear with the bow ribbon in its hair. 

Giving, it seemed, was contagious.

I have always demonstrated generosity and explained the "why" to my children, but this was the first time I was able to see them give generously of their own possessions without ever having to be told to do so.

On July 15, all three children excitedly chose who would receive their gift.  I watched from my seat on the piano bench as Emerson shyly gave his puppy to a man.  The woman who had received the sock monkey held it tightly in her arms the entire time our pastor preached.  But the biggest blessing was listening to the excitement in one woman's voice when she realized the new stuffed bear matched her own outfit.  All the while, big brother stood by and proudly watched his little sister receive a hug and a kiss.

As we loaded up the van to go back home, Wyatt skipped across the parking lot, his hand finding mine. 

"Do you know how I feel?" he asked, a huge grin lighting up his eyes.  "I feel all warm in my heart."

I had a van full of joy returning back to the farm that day.

A few days later, I learned just how contagious this joy and generosity truly were when a lady from my church said she was touched by how excited the residents were to receive the stuffed animals and had decided to donate her own beanie baby collection.  Would my children be willing to hand them all out to the men and women there?

Last week, we did just that, all of us going down the long halls with two garbage bags full of stuffed sunshine. "This one is so soft," Amelia cooed, rubbing it against her cheek before offering it with a smile to a lady.

We met the man whose room was filled with cat posters, the woman whose ceiling had dozens of wind chimes hanging overhead, the bright-eyed woman with no legs.  In one room, Wyatt carefully lay a bear by a sleeping man so as not to wake him.  In another, we chatted with two women watching The Price is Right.   One woman's speech was slow and labored by a stroke, but her slurred words still ring in my ears.  "Thank you.  I love it."

I continue to be amazed by the simple power of one to make an impact on the least of these.  One small boy's gift turned into three small children's gifts, which snowballed with another lady's gifts.

On those days when I feel insignificant or when I feel I just don't have enough money to make a big enough impact to counter the massive needs and hurting in this world, I need to take a step back and remember how the simple things can sometimes give the most joy to others.

We must learn from a little child just how important it is for us to keep giving of ourselves.  We never know when our solitary actions may lead to someone else coming alongside us, expanding the impact until it reaches so many more than we could have ever reached on our own.

1 comment:

  1. Their joy (and yours) is contagious, Jennifer. Just hearing them re-tell this story on Skype the Sunday after was inspiring. They are becoming such intuitive, generous, loving little people. I want to be like them when I grow up :)