Marquette, Michigan – September 20, 2018 – “Kids these days are so entitled!” This, a phrase we all hear relentlessly on a frequent basis. Whether you agree or not, you can admit that you’ve heard it. Maybe you’ve even said it yourself. Sometimes, it can be true.
We’ve all been there – we’re standing in the store checkout lane, ready to pay for all of the week’s groceries, and your kids spot it. The candy rack. UGH. NO! They turn to your with their little fists filled with Hershey bars and Chewy Sprees, begging you with their eyes. “PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE!” they scream. If you’re a parent, you’ll relate. If you say yes, you will have given in to the “gimmies.” If you don’t, you will be left with a bratty, screaming child. It’s inevitable. UNLESS you use that moment to attempt to teach them gratitude.
I was always that parent with the bratty kid screeching for a candy bar, embarrassingly picking said child up and hurrying out the store apologizing to everyone. It was awful. I felt like a failure as a parent. Until I had finally had enough one day and just quit trying to cover it up.
One day last year, while standing in line to pay for my groceries, I heard it. “PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE MOM PLEASE!” I turned, and there was my son, holding a package of Reese’s Pieces in his hand, his little face looking up at me with pleading eyes. I sighed heavily, held my gaze at the floor for a second, and looked at him again. “No, not today.”
His little lip began to tremble, surely getting ready to start bawling. Instead, before he could do anything, I said, “you need to be thankful for what you have, instead of always wanting more. You will never be happy in life if you always want more and more and more, and you don’t count your blessing you already have right in front of you.”
He got a confused look on his face, and stared at me. “What do you mean, mom?”
“I’ll show you.” He was so occupied with what I had said he had forgotten about the candy and had dropped it on the floor in the checkout. Once we got to the car, he continued to ask, “What do you mean, what do you mean?”
I just said, “you’ll see.” We drove downtown to where his father works, and parked there. Then we walked to a building he had never noticed before. It was a the Warming Center. “Take a peek inside the windows,” I told him. He cupped his little hands around his face and looked inside. There was another boy and a girl, one around his age,, the other a bit younger, sitting inside with what appeared to be their mother.
“Why are they there? What are they doing? Is this their house?” He had so many questions. We walked back to the car, and once inside, I told him as best I could about what it means to be homeless, how some people have nothing at all, and how lucky he really is to have everything he does have. He was stunned. I could tell he didn’t fully understand, but he did understand enough for the experience to have made an impact. He was very quiet the entire way home.
Once we were inside at home, he went straight to his room. I could hear him rummaging around in there. About ten minutes later, he came into the living room and put his suitcase on the floor in front of him. It was stuffed full with toys. “What are you doing?” I asked.
“I have a lot of toys,” he said, “and those other kids don’t. I think they’d like these.” He opened the suitcase, and about a dozen different toys fell out onto the floor. “Do you think they would?”
I smiled. “Oh yes,” I said, “I think they’d love them.” The next day, after picking him up from daycare, we went to the Warming Center to see if those same kids were there. No luck. They had gone. We started walking back to the car, and I was telling him how we could go to the Women’s Center and drop the toys off there, and other kids could have them. But then we heard children laughing. We looked over the fence in the back area of the building, and there were some kids. Not the same ones as yesterday, but kids all the same.
Beaming, he called to them, “Hey guys! I have toys for you! I have toys for you!” He excitedly ran around to get in the back and distributed the toys to three children, who looked to be so elated by the toys they could hardly stand it. He rushed back to me, and held my hand as he watched the other kids play for a moment. “They really like those toys, don’t they mom?” “Yes, they sure do,” I said, as we walked to the car.