By: Dr. Erica Skidmore
I couldn’t believe it.
It was Christmastime, and earlier that day at church we had picked up our empty shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child. On the way home from church we briefly talked about how the boxes would be filled with small toys and gifts for children in other countries who do not usually get presents.
Later that day, my 4-year-old son excitedly gave me a small box full of his toys, including some of his favorites, and said, “Here, Mommy. I got some of my toys to give to the kids who don’t have toys.”
Thinking he was confused, I knelt down and told my son we could go to the store to buy toys, that he didn’t have to give away his own toys. Of course I thought he was confused, because when I think about my favorite things – things – I definitely do not think about giving them away to someone who doesn’t have things. If I’m honest, I’m more likely to think about how I deserve to have things. Once a year at Christmastime I go out and buy things for other people who need them, so doesn’t that prove I am kind enough to deserve my own things? Kind enough. Kind…enough. Oh boy.
My son’s precious voice snaps me back to our conversation, “I want the kids to have these toys, Mommy. I love my toys, so I know the other kids who need them will love them, too. I have other toys, but they don’t have any.”
I couldn’t believe it. See, I have had many years to accumulate things, and I still didn’t want to think about parting with any of them. My son is only 4, so his collection of things is smaller. To give away one of his toys would certainly be noticed the next time he wanted to play with them, and here he was offering a box full of his toys because he somehow already understands that there is not enough when it comes to showing kindness. There is only kindness.
My eyes filled with tears as I hugged my son close. I was overwhelmed with gratitude that, despite how often I felt inadequate as a parent, my son is developing this heart for caring for others, for giving selflessly, and for showing kindness.
Several researchers have suggested the desire to show kindness is innate, something we’re born with, but research also suggests that by the time they reach middle school many children have learned to think more about themselves than others. They get the message from the rest of us that there is such a thing as “kind enough”.
I don’t know about you, but that is just not okay with me. From now on, I’m going to be much more intentional about teaching my children there is no such thing as “enough” when it comes to kindness.
Marilyn Price-Mitchell, PhD says, “We don’t make children happy when we simply enable them to be receivers of kindness. We escalate their feelings of happiness, improve their well-being, reduce bullying, and enrich their friendships by teaching them to be givers of kindness.”
I want to do everything in my power to teach my children to be givers of kindness first, without expectation of getting anything in return.
I also hope they always have a community of people around them that show them kindness. I believe community starts within the walls of our home, so I pray to be an example for my children of someone who selflessly gives kindness first and graciously receives second.
Of course, last Christmas, it was my son who was the example for me.
If you are inspired to help the children in your life to increase their happiness and well-being by giving kindness, go to www.onpurposepress.com and sign up for our newsletter. We will be making a BIG announcement very soon that will give you the tools you need to inspire kindness in your home and community. Also be sure to LIKE us on Facebook, so you can stay up-to-date with what’s going on at On Purpose Press.
Erica Skidmore is more commonly known as “Mommy” and is one of the founders, along with her husband, of On Purpose Press. In her spare time she also works as a clinical psychologist in a private practice and teaches. She is working on being more intentional about not accumulating more things.