Practicing empathy

We live a pretty good life. Sure, some days are hard and there are some things I wish we didn’t have to suffer through. But, at the end of the day, we are some of the lucky ones.
My daughter has never known hunger; when we had a huge health scare, we were flown to London and seen by the best specialists; she got a hospital bed that night and I never questioned how I would pay the bills; we have friends near and far that we love; she has yet to know racism, homophobia, or sexism as more than intellectual discussions (yes, we talk about all these topics); she has an abundance of stuff (probably too much); and she is never alone.

But not every kid is as lucky as she is. So we are talking about them too. We are taking about kids who have no families. We are talking about adoption. We are talking about love and lack of love and the constant need for more love in the world. My undying refrain will be: “there is always room for more love”.

This year, instead of simply donating to Toys for Tots or another worthy cause, I wanted my daughter to do it. She is 4. She has a huge heart and she is learning how to use it to care for those less fortunate than herself.

A Christmas tree is up at work with little angels printed with a name and age of a child in need. An email containing he requests from each child was emailed around. The list of requested gifts this year was heartbreaking! The most requested gift? A jacket. Followed closely by shoes and jeans. Some of the kids did ask for a toy. One little 6 year old boy asked for “a ball or a car”. My daughter has 6 balls and a box of cars. We talked about what it means to have nothing.

In the end, I choose two little girls, 6 and 8 years old. One asked for a baby doll, the other a mermaid. We decided to get each their gift as well as a book.

Little Elephant was tasked with picking out the gifts. As we drove to the mall, we reviewed: we were not going for gifts for her but for other little kids. She asked how many kids? I said two. She said, “no, at the group house… How many kids?” I said 44. I don’t know that as a fact, but I know there were 44 angels on the tree. Little elephant announced we needed to buy 44 books. Everyone should have a book to read!

At the mall, we ran into Florida, a friend from the neighborhood. Little Elephant explained what she was going to do and why. She thoughtfully picked out the gifts, considering which she would like best and empathizing with two children she doesn’t know.

Little Elephant has never had a brand new doll. She has hand-me-downs galore. But never a new one. She also has never had a Barbie. It is huge that the first baby doll and Barbie she buys and brings home, will not be for her. I am so proud of her for doing this, not only without a single tear, but with joy in her heart.

The truth is, there isn’t enough love in the world, but today my heart grew.


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