We were at the grocery store. From the moment our feet hit the generic linoleum tiles, all you could talk about was the claw machine which resided just past the check-out lines.
I would put an item in the cart and you would immediately ask if we were done; if we could go check-out now so you could see the majestic claw machine.
I reminded you that I didn’t have any quarters; that we were not going to play with the claw machine today. You continued, undeterred. You just wanted to see the claw machine and maybe the check-out lady would give me quarters after I paid for the groceries.
But I’m using a credit card today, I told you. Well, maybe she’ll give us quarters anyway, you insisted.
We made our way – painstakingly – through the store and – at long last – headed for the check-out lines. You joyously bounced towards the line nearest the machine, but I chose a shorter line farther away. Obviously I was determined to torture you. You danced between our line and the machine; basking in the glow of the unattainable, cheap toys.
It turned out the machine was stocked entirely with bouncy balls. You wanted them anyway. “Don’t bother, honey,” the check-out girl advised. “Those balls are hard to grab. No one wins those.”
You remained undeterred. “Do you have quarters now, Mom?” you eagerly asked as I finished settling up.
“Nope. I told you, I used my credit card. I have three pennies in my purse, and that’s it.”
“We could use those! We just need two coins!”
“Quarters, sweetheart. Two quarters. We’ll break the machine if we try to use pennies.”
“But, what if I found two quarters on the floor. Could I play then?”
“Sure. If you find two quarters you can play.”
You doggedly scanned the floor during our short walk to the front door where we stopped behind a woman scrounging through her pocket book. The lady produced a handful of change and promptly dropped it in to a red Salvation Army charity kettle.
You lunged for it.
I caught your arm as you reached out to try to dig your little hands in the little hole in the mouth of the kettle and fetch out your precious quarters.
“But…I found quarters!”
“Those are not for you.”
I towed you, disappointed and confused, back to the car where I explained charity to you.
“Those two quarters you wanted? When you put them in that kettle they can buy someone who is hungry an apple or bread to eat. When you put them in the claw machine you get a bouncy ball. Do you need another bouncy ball?”
“Do you want someone else to have food that needs it?”
“That’s charity, sweetheart. Taking something of yours, like money, food, or toys, and giving them to someone else who needs it more.”
We talked about it a lot, all the way home. We talked about how we earn our money, what we spend it on, and how not everybody has those things. It’ll be awhile, I think, before it sinks in that there are people in this world – in our town – that don’t have enough food to eat. But, I think you’ll look at that red kettle differently from now on.
To bring the lesson home, this year we will participate in Operation Christmas Child. We’ll let you know how it goes 🙂