It started the winter when the kids were 1.5 and 3.5 years old. I was working at a homeless service organization that worked with families. I met a woman, twelve years younger than me, with a son the exact age as my Ninja Boy. The differences between us ran much deeper than our ages — she had just escaped a situation few would believe even if confidentiality did not bar me from sharing her story. I came home terrified to hold my son. The power and beauty of his soul held the same weight as the soul of the baby in my office earlier that day. The only difference in their stories was luck. At 29 years old I finally realized how incredibly unfair life is when you do not have a belief system where you see every event as having a reason or a predestination. Being a person who has never believed that a 1.5 year old without access to clean water and diapers is part of a greater plan of salvation I instead saw for the first time how futile my work could be in our world.
I spent the early evening telling my husband how sad and helpless I felt, how awful it was to know that what my work could offer in this situation was probably merely salve on a festering wound. We could offer diapers, but what about toys? We had a roof in mind, but what about cute little boy clothes? How do we let this young mom and her son know that they matter, that their shit luck might never have an expiration date but apathy might?
Twinkle Toes asked me why I was crying. I told her I was sad that sometimes little boys do not have toys and clothes even when their mommy tries as hard as she can. I kept talking to Dave for a while, then I felt Twinkle tug at my sleeve. She had went into her room and pulled together toys for the baby.
Kids have such clarity of purpose. They have not been trained to see hopelessness yet. They do not see problems as bigger than immediate solutions. She went into her room and chose carefully, culling some of her very favorite books and a few stuffed animals. I took her example to heart and called my own church to ask for a donation of a gift card that could be used for baby food. Ninja Boy and I chose some clothing, too, so the baby would know warmth that winter.
I had worked in homeless services and other non-profit services for nearly a decade already, but for the first time in my life I felt like nothing I had done had really mattered. Twinkle’s self-directed choice reminded me that it isn’t saving the entire world that I set out to do in the first place, it was to always center my choices on goodness and love.
Every December since that year the kids go through all of their toys and give away everything they think someone else would appreciate more than they do. This year they managed to give away four garbage bags full of toys, a toy workbench, a toy kitchen and a Cozy Coup car. It took Dave loading our car to the max to get everything to a local donation center.
We knew we could take it to consignment and make money but there have been too many years we depended on the generosity of other’s donations to consider doing anything except to pay it forward. The best part is that my only role in the entire process is to hold the bag open. The beautiful and kind souls of my children love the idea of children having toys because of their kindness — they give with an open heart.