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Adoption Blog: Be Bold or Go Home

Teaching Kids to Care
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My husband and I spent a lot of time trying to decide how to spend Martin Luther King, Jr. Day this year. Talk of boarding The Freedom Train for a civil rights history lesson or spending the day in volunteer service evaporated in the face of fatigue from school, work, our ongoing volunteer obligations and the logistical nightmare of three kids playing on five teams in two different sports leagues. Still, I didn’t want the day to go unmarked. I suggested that we get the kids involved in collecting spare change around the house. We already had a substantial stash languishing in the Spare Change Jar, and once we collected and rolled all the coins, we’d probably have a nice donation to send to Doctors Without Borders’ for relief work in Haiti. This was a great opportunity to get the kids excited about helping people in need.

My son Gobez likes nothing better than finding money and declaring “Finders, keepers!” so he signed on to the project with enthusiasm. The girls showed more interest in a Wizards of Waverly Place marathon on TV, but I let it go in the hopes they’d decide to join the cause during a commercial break. After digging through drawers and diving under couch cushions, John and Gobez were soon busy at the kitchen table, separating out the Canadian dimes and the Chuck E. Cheese tokens and dumping the good stuff into our change sorting machine. Gobez tried sliding a stack of quarters into a wrapper and they all came clattering out the other end. “I’m no good at this part,” he sighed. I’ll confess that my own contribution was strictly managerial; John got stuck doing most of the actual work.

As the rolls of coins slowly piled up, Gobez grew more and more excited. “I can’t wait to go shopping!” he bellowed.

Oops. Obviously, the point of the effort hadn’t been made clear. “Honey, we’re not keeping the money, ” I said. “We’re going to send it to people in Haiti who were hurt in the earthquake.”

“Are you kidding?” Gobez asked. “We spent a long time on this!”

I felt a little stab of disappointment. Why weren’t my kids, who experienced painful deprivation themselves in their early lives, more sensitive to the needs of others? What have I been doing wrong?

To his credit, Gobez kept working even though his dream of a toy store shopping spree had been destroyed. By the time he and John were done, they’d filled a heavy canvas bag with almost $400 in rolled coins. Still, I kept worrying about the kids overall disinterest in helping. I’ve had trouble engaging them in similar projects in the past. At 6, 7 and 8, are they just too young to get it?  Or are we spoiling them into apathy?  Finally it hit me. I had been deliberately shielding the kids from the images of Haiti’s ruin and heartbreak—how could the need possibly be real to them? And yet, every time we see a homeless person right here in our own hometown, don’t the kids shout at me to the give the guy a dollar? Haven’t they even suggested that we bring the homeless guys home?

Last Christmas Eve, little Lemlem insisted that Santa needed to receive more than just cookies and milk from us. She took all the bills from her wallet—all $12—and carefully wrapped them in plain paper. “From Lemlem To Santa HoHoHo,” she wrote, and covered the rest of the paper with hearts. I’d shoved the little bundle into a secret pocket in my purse to preserve the Santa illusion and had been carting it around every since. I didn’t want to spend the money she’d so earnestly given to Santa, but I didn’t know what to do with it until now. I unwrapped Lemlem’s folding money and added it to the bag of coins bound for Haiti. I’m sure Santa would approve.


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Meet the Author

Sharon Van Epps

Sharon Van Epps

Washington

I have recently adopted or am adopting from...
Ethiopia, India

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