Today, we took a lesson about giving to others. We visited the women's shelter a friend of mine works and donated some clothes and toys.
Our path to get to today was unexpected, as most paths usually are, I suspect. And it started out in a less than giving manner. It started when my daughter brought home a stuffed animal that she had won. I can't remember if this was before the great purge or after, but I reacted in a less than hospitable way to the arrival of yet another stuffed animal.
"But Mama," Jaelyn whimpered. "I love this animal."
I was less than convinced. "Did you even know that such a creature existed before you won this? You've only had it for 30 minutes - how can you love it when you really haven't had it that long? What about your other animals? Do you love this one more than those other animals? Should one of them leave your room if you decide to keep this one?"
After bickering back and forth, I finally hit exasperated and barked, "There are children in this world, in fact, in this city, that don't have even one cuddly toy to sleep with at night."
This brought about silence, and then, "Where, Mama? Where are the children in our city that don't have toys?"
The first thing that came to my mind was the women's shelter. And it was what I tried to explain, in a gentle way. I told them that some women need to quickly leave their homes with their children so that they can all be safe, and they sometimes don't have time to pack their things. After answering a few questions, Nicholas and Jaelyn agreed that the new stuffed animal could go to the women's shelter. I told them I would pack up some other items, like maternity clothes, baby clothes that Astrin had grown out of, and other toys that are no longer used and we would take them down together.
A few days before we planned to drop off our donation, I received a note that winter clothes were needed. So, I went through those last night and dug out some hats, mitts, and a winter jacket. By the time everything was packed up, we had filled a very large garbage bag.
I was still fielding questions the night before we left and this morning. Would we ever need to go to a women's shelter? Would I just go myself? Would boy children be allowed to go to the women's shelter? I answered what I could and encouraged them to ask questions when we stopped by.
The children didn't know what to expect, and were surprised that the women's shelter looked just like an ordinary apartment building. They asked a few questions, answered a few, then we were on our way.
I hope that the items we shared today will make the road a little easier for a family learning to heal itself. And that we can make giving a part of our everyday life.