My three-year-old and I were out shopping today. We were buying toys and other things to put in our Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes, which need to be turned in soon so that they can make it to children in need for Christmas.
Usually shopping with a three-year-old isn’t my favorite thing to do, but I thought that if we could keep it to one store, and if I could get him involved in the choosing of things, it may not be so bad.
As we walked from aisle to aisle, he carried his hand-basket and selected items to put in the shoeboxes. Finding Nemo writing pads, bars of soap, colored pencils, toothbrushes, socks with little tacos on them. Anything that caught his eye was a potential gift, although I had to draw the line at the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle body lotion.
We rounded the corner of a toy aisle, and that’s when my son stopped. He put down his basket and grabbed a large bag of plastic dinosaurs.
“Mom,” he said in an awed whisper, “can we get this?”
“Well, we can, but it wouldn’t be for us to keep. We’re shopping for other people today, remember?”
We walked on a few steps, but he kept glancing back at the dinosaurs.
I know there are probably stronger moms than me out there, but I couldn’t resist that sweet plea. I crouched down and looked at him.
“You’ve been really good and helpful in the store today. So, we can get this, but you have to share them with the other children. You can have some, but the rest have to go in our shoeboxes. Ok?”
“ALRIGHT! Yes, mom, I’ll share.”
He promptly dropped his basket and grabbed the dinosaurs, clutching them in both hands as I picked up his basket and we continued our shopping. As we headed toward the check-out, he looked at me with a little frown on his face. “Mom. Actually, I don’t want to share my toys.”
Oh, boy, do I know that feeling.
I know that feeling of working for something, doing something good for some sort of reward, only to be expected to share it with others.
And I don’t want to.
I don’t always want to share my toys, either.
When I’ve worked really hard and earned some extra money, I don’t want to give any of it away.
When I’ve done something new and different and received a promotion, I don’t want to share any of the credit.
When I’ve raised and taught and worried over my kids, I don’t want to share their love.
I guess you could say I sometimes have the selfishness of a three-year-old.
But as my husband reminded me just this morning, what am I storing those treasures up for? And where am I storing them?
Because, truthfully, it’s so much better when I share my toys.
I get to see others get the things they need because I was able to help. Whether it’s my time, my skills or my things, the people they go to are so much more important than whatever fleeting thing I would choose if I let my inner three-year-old take the lead.
I get to encourage someone else instead of stepping on people’s backs to succeed. We can do so much more when we work together than when we try to do everything alone.
I get to watch my children form good, strong, loving bonds with people who will help build their character and be a safe place for them to turn if they don’t feel like they can turn to me.
And as we start small, with a pack of plastic dinosaurs and a shoebox, I get to see my son get just a taste of those better things, too.