I don't know about all the other mommas out there but I have a hard time making my children understand how fortunate they are. Now maybe it is because I expect too much of them at only 3 and 5. Let me say I have some good boys - they are not perfect - but they are sweet and considerate and kind (most of the time). However, they are also a little entitled, as I am sure a lot of children are.
They are not old enough to understand the value of money or the fact that it doesn't grow on trees. They do not realize how lucky they are that they always have enough food, nice clothes, shoes without holes and a swimming pool in our neighborhood. They don't realize it because all of those things are staples in their every day life. They don't always understand when they can't get a toy at the store because they have 9,387 toys at home - that they don't play with.
We live in a suburban area and they go to preschool with families similar to ours. So really how are they supposed to see that not everyone has plenty of food to eat or a popsicle anytime they want it. Adults are guilty of it also and I include myself in that group. I certainly don't whisper a prayer of gratitude every time I turn on the shower for the clean water I have or when I flip a switch to turn on my nice warm gas logs on a cold winter night. We all have a lot to learn about gratitude and compassion.
When I read about the Compassion Experience coming to our area it seemed like a perfect opportunity to at least introduce our boys to a world without plenty.
When you arrive you are provided with a headset connected to an I-phone that will help you as you journey through the life of a less fortunate child.
Once you have your headset you can choose between several stories to hear. Because my kids are boys and because I was hoping the story would be more impactful if the child was similar to them we chose to hear Jonathan's story. (and daddy's name is Jonathon)
You have to understand - these are real stories about real people told in their voice. You actually listen to the grown Jonathon telling his story as you walk through an area recreated to look like his surroundings when he was little. Jonathan is a little boy from the Dominican Republic whose earthly father called him a mistake and who grew up in extreme poverty.
Our journey started in Jonathan's house. Immediately upon entering it was a strong contrast from our spacious 2 story home. In that first room the boys were able to see Jonathan's shoes which had holes in them. They were able to touch them and really see what he was wearing versus the new Pumas they had on their feet. You tour at your own pace so I was able to bend down and talk to them about these things.
In the next room they saw examples of where Jonathan did his homework and the food he ate. Both boys thought the food looked gross and like nothing they would eat. It gave me an opportunity to tell them how lucky we are that we have chicken nuggets and fresh fruit. We talked about how Jonathan didn't have Velveta mac and cheese. I explained that Jonathan had to eat whatever his mom could afford and he didn't have the luxury of being a picky eater.
Luckily Jonathan was able to find a Christian group that helped him through the hard times and loved him through some poor choices. He was able to find a successful path in a less than ideal life.
In the last room the boys were able to see and hear the real Jonathan talking. They were able to hear him talk about his life now and what he has become. He explained how Jesus loved them.
Upon exiting there is a wall of post cards with pictures of children. Of course my boys didn't understand who all those children were. We spent some time looking at each post card and pronounced the children's names for them. We talked about how they lived far away and how they too didn't have enough and needed help.
Overall the experience was really nice. I think the organization does a really great job of showing the stories. I would love to say that we walked out of there and each of them gave me a big hug and said how grateful they were for all we have....... but of course that is not what happened. Their little minds can only understand so much. One trip like that can't possible bring them to a full understanding and appreciation for their fortune in life. Yet is was a foundation, a building block, and it gave me a place to start the conversation with them.
In the weeks since we did this I have mentioned it several times to the boys. If they pouted for not getting their way I have used it as a way to talk to them about not always having what you need, much less getting what you want.
Just the other night the boys came to me - out of the blue - as we were getting ready for bath and my 5 year old said, "mommy I love our house. Thank you for spending the money to buy this house." Then the 3 year old hands me a quarter and tells me he wants to help pay for our house. They are listening - they are hearing and they are watching.