This is a piece that I submitted to FaithWriters writing challenge entitled ‘First World Problems’. To my surprise, I won 1st place in the L1 category and a $50 cash prize.
I had struggled with a serious case of the “Gimme’s” with my kids all week. It was Spring break and they were bored by Day 3. I had lifted the technology embargo I enforce throughout the school year. No iPads or TV during the school week. The computer is only allowed for school projects. I allowed them to watch certain age-appropriate YouTube channels and though the content had been filtered for language, violence and adult situations, it was not filtered for mass commercialism. It seemed as though every video was followed by some type of commercial for the latest toy, sugary cereal or trendy clothing. You will have to pardon my ignorance, but I thought I only had to worry about commercials on TV.
My little daughter, Savannah, led me to the computer, pointed to the screen and asked, “Can I have this kitchen for my doll, Mommy? I also want Cinderella shoes and a mermaid costume.”
“My doll needs a hairdressing set and wedding dress and I need new headphones. My other ones broke” added Mila, my older daughter.
“Your birthdays are coming up, add it to your wish-lists”, I replied.
The requests didn’t stop. In fact, they became more frequent and more demanding as the week progressed. They were like little versions of that infomercial guy convincing me why a light-up pillow was a must-have for the Raynor home and why an All-in-One snack and grab solution would save me hours in cleaning. I was at the end of my rope by Friday.
“If either of you asks for one more thing, I will take your American Girl dolls away.”
The requests stopped. I had pulled out the big guns, but I knew I didn’t get to the heart of the matter. Like any parent, I love giving my children gifts, but I worried that they were developing a sense of entitlement. I spoke to my husband that night and we agreed that we would speak to the girls about contentment and gratitude.
As I made breakfast the next day my husband told me he didn’t have time to eat at home today. He and my eldest would get something to eat on the way to their destination.
“Daddy’s taking me to get a surprise.” Mila gloated to her little sister, who was surprisingly unaffected by her big sister’s boasts.
Savannah and I went to her gymnastics class and returned home after buying groceries. Mila and Daddy were home already.
“Mommy! Look at this video I made today!”
Mila handed me her dad’s phone. It contained a video of a man dancing to praise music played over a loud-speaker. Even though you could tell the man was homeless, he was expressing joy and freedom as he danced. Savannah laughed at the man’s antics.
“Daddy took me to the feeding program with people from the church today. We fed a lot of people that don’t have anywhere to live. I felt kind of sad but happy at the same time.”
“Why did you feel sad?” I asked.
“I felt sad for them because they don’t have anything. No house, no food. Some of the kids there don’t even have any toys” she explained.
“No toys?” Savannah asked in complete disbelief.
“What made you feel happy?” asked Daddy.
Smiling, she replied, “I felt happy that I could help them. They smiled at me when I gave them their food and everyone said ‘thank you’.”
She grabbed her sister’s hand and led her upstairs. I hugged my husband and thanked him for turning this into a teaching opportunity.
“As soon as Savannah’s old enough, we will all start going together as a family.” he said.
The kids came back down and stood before us with their hands behind their backs.
“Mommy and Daddy, We are going to give these toys to the children who have nowhere to live.” Mila said as they revealed what they held behind them.
Savannah had emptied out her piggy bank. “This money is for their mommies and daddies so they can buy food.”
They got it!
We live in the wealthiest part of the world. Left to their own devices, my children can become materialistic and entitled. This is true of all of us. Our job as parents is to model generosity and contentment. We are teaching them that when we give our lives to Christ in service to others, He will repay us in ways we could never imagine. Those are the best gifts.