When a tornado touched down in a small town nearby,
many families were left devastated. Afterward, all the local
newspapers carried many human-interest stories featuring some of
the families who suffered the hardest.
One Sunday, a particular picture especially touched me.
A young woman stood in front of a totally demolished mobile home,
an anguished expression twisting her features.
A young boy, seven or eight years old, stood at her side,
eyes downcast. Clutching at her skirt was a tiny girl who
stared into the camera, eyes wide with confusion and fear.
The article that accompanied the picture gave the clothing
sizes of each family member. With growing interest,
I noticed that their sizes closely matched ours. This would
be a good opportunity to teach my children to help those
less fortunate than themselves.
I taped the picture of the young family to our refrigerator,
explaining their plight to my seven-year-old twins, Brad and
Brett, and to three-year-old Meghan.
“We have so much, and these poor people now have nothing,”
I said. “We’ll share what we have with them.”
I brought three large boxes down from the attic and placed them
on the living room floor. Meghan watched solemnly as the boys
and I filled one of the boxes with canned goods and other
nonperishable foods, soap and other assorted toiletries.
While I sorted through our clothes, I encouraged the boys to go
through their toys and donate some of their less favorite
things. Meghan watched quietly as the boys piled up discarded
toys and games.
“I’ll help you find something for the little girl when I’m done
with this,” I said.
The boys placed the toys they had chosen to donate into one of
the boxes while I filled the third box with clothes.
Meghan walked up with Lucy, her worn, faded, frazzled, much-
loved rag doll hugged tightly to her chest.
She paused in front of the box that held the toys, pressed her
round little face into Lucy’s flat, painted-on-face, gave her a
final kiss, then laid her gently on top of the other toys.
“Oh, Honey,” I said. “You don’t have to give Lucy.
You love her so much.”
Meghan nodded solemnly, eyes glistening with held-back tears.
“Lucy makes me happy, Mommy.
Maybe she’ll make that other little girl happy, too.”
Swallowing hard, I stared at Meghan for a long moment, wondering
how I could teach the boys the lesson she had just taught me.
For I suddenly realized that anyone can give their cast-offs
away. True generosity is giving that which you cherish most.
Honest benevolence is a three-year-old offering a treasured,
albeit shabby doll to a little girl she doesn’t know with the
hope that it will bring this child as much pleasure as it
I, who had wanted to teach, had been taught.
The boys had watched, open-mouthed, as their baby sister placed
her favorite doll in the box. Without a word, Brad rose and
went to his room. He came back carrying one of his favorite
action figures. He hesitated briefly, clutching the toy, then
looked over at Meghan and placed it in the box next to Lucy.
A slow smile spread across Brett’s face, then he jumped up, eyes
twinkling as he ran to retrieve some of his prized Matchbox
Amazed, I realized that the boys had also recognized what little
Meghan’s gesture meant. Swallowing back tears, I pulled all
three of them into my arms.
Taking the cue from my little one, I removed my old tan jacket
with the frayed cuffs from the box of clothes. I replaced it
with the new hunter green jacket that I had found on sale last> week. I hoped the young woman in the picture would love it as
much as I did.
It’s easy to give that which we don’t want anymore but harder to
let go of something that we cherish isn’t it?