One of the things that I’m constantly imparting on my son is the importance of service. On his bedroom door I posted the quote by Shirley Chisholm “Service is the rent we pay for the privilege of living on this earth.” This quote serves to remind both of us that we have to serve others. We have to serve others with a kind hearted spirit because it is our responsibility to humanity.
I started off by teaching him this small ways such as “share your toys Munch”, “Munch, let Katherine see play with your I-pad” or “Munch, can you please allow Billy to have some of your candy”. Gradually he started to get the hang of sharing without the attitude. He learned that whether it was candy, toys or electronics he had to not only share his possessions, but to have a positive attitude about it.
I’ve always been a parent that believed in leading by example. Whenever we were out together going to the grocery store or somewhere to eat and there was someone asking for money, I would give them whatever I could spare. One day my son asked me “Why did I give that man money?” I explained that the gentleman had stated he needed some money to buy food. He was hungry. My son stopped and thought about it. He said “Mommy that was really nice of you.” I smiled and reminded him that we are always supposed to share including money. It then hit me that he was paying attention to what I was doing. I was leading by example.
When he started kindergarten, he was excited to buy lunch at the school. He did it for the first year, but by the first grade, it was old news and he wanted to pack his lunch. I agreed as it was more economical to do so, but I told him that I always kept money on his lunch account whenever he was hungry or forgot his lunch. It was an account that I monitored every so often to make sure that he wasn’t running low.
One day I realized that his lunch account balance was low. I started looking at the calendar knowing that I had packed his lunch the days the computer said he bought lunch. I called the school and spoke with the cafeteria manager because I was sure that it was an error. The manager explained that she knows my son and that he did in fact buy lunch those days. Feeling concerned, but believing her, I knew I had to talk to my son about it.
He denied it at first. He seemed a little scared. I started to think that maybe he was being bullied. Why else would he hesitate on telling me what’s going on? I started to question him about the money and he shut down. I left it alone. I called his dad and talked to him about it. I asked him to talk to him and see what’s going on. I expressed that I was concerned he was being bullied at school. “He’s too nice” I said. I explained to him that “I know someone is taking his lunch.” His dad laughed.
Later on my son’s dad called me to say “He’s not being bullied. He’s buying lunch for a classmate that didn’t have any money or food.” I was shocked. His dad explained that he was afraid to tell me because he thought I would be mad. I literally cried that this child was looking out for others. The money was of insignificance when the message of sharing with others and kindness was being received.
His kindness and desire to serve others has continued over the years. He’ll still buy lunch for others and he even helped me out with Wreaths Across America. I thought he would be afraid with laying the wreaths on the soldier’s graves but he actually placed each wreath on the headstone and said “Merry Christmas”.
Teaching our children to be kind is one of the toughest things we’ll encounter as parents. With the state of bullying in this day and age we walk a fine line to make sure that our children can stand up for themselves and then remind them to always be kind. However, when we get it right, there are moments like I experienced that let you know that the message was received loud and clear and you’re doing it right.