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    “We cannot do great things on this Earth, only small things with great love.”

    Mother Teresa

    When I traveled to Jejuri, India to volunteer in a small, village-school, I took as many school supplies as my back-pack could hold.  Patrick, my host and the principal of the school, had told me that felt-pens would be a big hit, so I made certain that I could carry at least one package for each student. When I arrived at Patrick’s home, I met his wife, Maduri, and their two children, Sonny (8 yrs.) and Baby (3 yrs.)  I pulled out a package of felt pens and gave them to Sonny. He smiled, thanked me, and set them aside.

    Baby, Sonny and their cousin Anupriya

    Baby, Sonny and their cousin Anupriya

    “Sonny,” his father said, “don’t you want to try your new pens?” Sonny shook his head.

    “Why not?” Patrick asked.

    Sonny was silent. He seemed reluctant to say anything in front of me, so I turned my attention to Baby for a moment. He whispered something in his father’s ear.

    Patrick then told me that Sonny wanted to wait and share the pens with the rest of his classmates.

    “Oh, Sonny, I brought a package for every student. Every one of your classmates will get their own package, so you can open yours now and use them!” I said.

    Sonny shyly shook his head again and whispered something else in his father’s ear. Apparently, Sonny needed proof. He wouldn’t open his felt pens until he had seen the alleged packages for his classmates.

    I led Sonny over to my purple backpack and counted out sixteen packages of felt pens, all as colourful and new as the gift I had given him. His eyes lit up, he ran over to where he had placed his felt pens, and he proceeded to spend the next few hours playing with them. He drew with them, made patterns with them on the floor, he used them as cars to drive around the house and even used them to make a magic trail for me to follow.  I can’t remember all of the applications Sonny discovered for those pens, but I believe they were the most treasured colouring utensils on the planet.

    I had never encountered such a boy as Sonny. In all my years of teaching, I had never witnessed someone of his age care enough about his friends to delay the gratification of playing with a new gift.

    I told my three-year-old daughter, Pip, this story about Sonny as a way to introduce the idea of giving some of her toys away to other children this holiday.  I explained that there were some children who lived in our town who didn’t have any toys, and it would make them feel happy if we shared our toys with them.  My plan was for Pip  to donate some of her toys to Santa’s Workshop.

    It was a lofty goal.  Pip’s eyes started to well up with tears as we stood in her bedroom and looked at her shelf-full of stuffed animals.  As I pulled out one stuffed animal at a time to see if it passed the ‘donation’ test, Pip fought to control her emotions; eventually the damn burst, “But Mama, I love ALL of my stuffies!”  She dropped into my arms and we had a cuddle.  It was true.  She did love all of her stuffies, and as we started to go through them, I realized that each toy had a special story.  We bought Salty the Dragon at the Salt Spring Market on our first trip as a family of four, Brown Bunny was handed-down to us by my cousin Sheryl , Leo the Lion was given to Pip on her first birthday…it made me realize that we don’t do a lot of impulse buying for our daughters.  Most of the toys, books and games that they own represent  special occasions or special people in their lives.

    This was going to be harder than I thought.  Pip was only three years old, after all, and the degree of altruism I was asking of her would be difficult for most adults.  I didn’t want to go behind Pip’s back and take her toys without her knowledge;  that would teach her nothing about giving.

    I spotted Pip’s piggy bank on her bookshelf, and remembered that ‘Planet Kids,’ (a local kids’ store,) was offering a discount to customers who bought gifts for Santa’s workshop.  Pip and I talked about using some of her money to buy a new toy to give to another child, instead of giving away one of her beloved stuffies.

    “That’s a great idea Mama!”  Her mood changed instantly.  She excitedly shook money out of her piggy bank and together, we picked out ten loonies to put in her blue-leopard-purse.  “When can we go shopping for the kids like Sonny?”  she asked.

    piggy bank


    I decided to strike while the iron was hot, so we bundled up and walked a few blocks to Planet Kids.  I honestly didn’t know how the trip would go, but Pip was great.  She knew the purpose of our shopping spree and she quickly chose a gift to buy.  It was a Dr. Seuss, Horton Hears a Who blanket.  “I bet a kid like Sonny would love a blanket like this, Mama.”

    “I bet you’re right Pip.”  We took Horton over to the counter and Pip pulled out her leopard purse.  I thought we were home-free when Pip dropped the gift into the basket, but she had spotted the ‘horse display.’

    santa workshop

    “Mama, I really want this horse.”

    “Well, we’re not buying anything for ourselves today, Pip, but you can write it on your list for Santa.”

    “Okay, Mama.”  It was hard for Pip, but she walked out of the store without making a fuss.  She seemed a bit melancholy, and I knew she was thinking about the horses.

    “That was a really nice thing you did, Pip.  Some little child will be really happy to get that blanket.”

    “Mama, I don’t think I can wait until Christmas to have a present,” the tears seemed threateningly near.

    “I know, Sweetie.  Waiting is hard.”  I decided against any more ‘Christmas’ talk,  and opted for a diversion instead. “Pip, let’s go home and paint the macaroni vases.”

    “Yippeee!!! Let’s go paint the vases!”  Sometimes, a little paint and macaroni is all it takes.

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