At the end of every term, when it feels like I can take a deep breath a look around without wasting valuable time, I go crazy organizing my house. Clean out closets, toy boxes and random corners of clutters in the house. This happens twice a year: December and June.
I’m always amazed at how much stuff we’ve amassed in six short months. My rule for toys is that if your toy box is overflowing, you have too many toys. I really want to instill a sense of giving in my children, to not spoil them and for them to realize that too much “stuff” isn’t good for people. And so I used to ask them to give me two toys from their toy box to put in the recycling bin that heads to the charity drop bins by the grocery store. They help me pack up our gently used or too-small clothes, hand me a stuffy and we drive to the bins together.
This has started to prove to be more and more problematic as they’ve gotten older. They love; their toys, they want; their toys and they don’t want to part with them.
I thought long and hard about it, both about what charity means and what toys mean to children. And I’ve revamped my methods this year.
I’m not going to make them part with their toys. This is the time of year I usually toss a package of diapers into the Food Bank bin at the grocery store once a week. So I ask them to put it in for me. We found one of Leila’s old snowsuits and will be taking it to the Coats for Kids campaign here in Halifax together. I’l still take them with me to hand over our bag of warm coats and vests and rubber boots, but I didn’t make my kids put a toy inside. Instead, I showed them the brand new toys I’m dropping off at the movies tonight for the Halifax Toy Drive.
Learning how to give openly and lovingly isn’t something that can be forced into you. The most that I can do is explain to my children how lucky we are, to show them how we give to people, to tell them why it matters. I hope (and believe) that one day they’ll clean out their own closets and kiss their babies too-small snowsuits and send them along to someone else with a little prayer of thanks. But the most that I can do is show them – not force them.
We went to church last week for the first time in a long, long time. And as I sat listening during the sermon, my eyes filled with tears. Because I get ridiculously emotional through the Christmas season but also because it felt that finally, I had listened to the little voice inside of me telling me what I needed to expand my heart and here I was.
The minister spoke about Hope. Hope that we’ll get through our dark times and hope that we’ll stay awake and I thought back to how miserable I was this time last year. How I had everything – from the physical stuff; to my family. I had everything I should have needed. Except what I think I was missing was Hope.
I didn’t believe that I was enough for me, for anyone. I didn’t love myself or see value in raising my children, loving my husband. And as the minister asked us what satisfaction a flat screen t.v. can bring you when you can’t pay your mortgage, I realized that what I need in my life to keep me focused and grounded is the hope of my children’s future.
I struggle with the fact that I don’t make a lot of money. I mean, I TA and am a run coach, but they are not significant contributions to our family’s income. I struggle with feeling like I contribute when there’s no evidence. But what I realized is that the money doesn’t mean anything. What matters is my children and my home. The value I put into the world, into this little family, by being connected to my kids, by cooking our dinners and baking apple pie and scrubbing little bodies with a soapy facecloth and mucking out he closets and even ironing Steve’s uniform – these things provide an intangible value. And it may be a value that I’ve overlooked for far too long.
It dawned on me, as I sat in the very warm-feeling church, that I may have been focusing on the wrong things. The wrong outcomes.
I’ve held onto that warm feeling all week long – that feeling of Hope. Hope (and belief) that I can find the strength I need to combat the messages I receive that money and stuff and things are the most important. Hope and belief that my children will grow into loving, caring, generous women. Hope that I have found a safe and wonderful place in my soul.