How a Trip to the Playground Turned Into a Lesson on Empathy, Kindness, and Gratitude

Raising a child who's compassionate and kind is our responsibility. One that I take to heart, and that means a lot to me.

Ever since our son was 2 years old we've collected food for shelters, packed shoe boxes for +Operation Christmas Child, donated toys for tots, and clothes with his help. He's now 6 years old, and we've talked about helping others, and have done character building activities together. 

However, we had yet to encounter a homeless person.

Photo credit via Flick Common Creatives 
The day after Thanksgiving little one and I went to the movies. Afterwards, we headed to the playground so he can play. It was a very cold day, and we were bundled up for the weather. On our way to the car we picked up some branches (to make a craft), and then my child spotted a couple snuggled under some cardboard boxes, and dirty sheets. They were sleeping on the cement, and we could only see their heads. I also noticed more homeless people in the area, but the ones sleeping on the ground were the ones that caught my son's attention.

My child started asking so many questions. Mami, why are they sleeping there? How are they going to get food? Why don't they sleep in their own beds? Don't they have homes? I answered his questions, in a way that his 6 yr. old little mind, and heart could understand. 

I prayed to God that I would be able to use this moment as  a lesson and to reinforce everything we've taught him, empathy, compassion, gratitude, and kindness. 

In the car, we talked about their current situations, and how we can make a difference. I asked how he felt, and he said he was sad for them.  We talked about the basic needs of every human being, and how blessed we were.  He was truly enthralled in our conversation, even remembering the times we've donated food, toys, and other items as well.

Then I asked my child what did being kind meant?  He responded, "Being good to someone." My heart swelled up with joy! At that very moment, I realized that everything we've been vehemently teaching him on doing good to others came down to this simple act of kindness to a homeless person.

I suggested we buy them something to eat. Since it was so cold I figured a hot and tasty chili will warm them up.  So we went through Wendy's drive-thru and bought 2 large chillies, 2 baked potatoes, and 2 cheeseburgers. Since I had bottles of water in the car, I didn't buy anything to drink.

I was worried they may have left while we went to get the food. However, on our return, my baby says, "Mami, they are still there!" He held the two bottles of water, and I carried the food. As I got out of the car, I prayed to God that he cover us with his Grace; and that we be used as instruments to bring some comfort to these two people.

Once there, and with my son by my side I said, "Excuse me, I was wondering if you'd like something to eat?", and showed them the bag.  When they sat up, their faces lit up!  I saw how young they were maybe mid-twenties; and they said, "Yes, thank you, thank you! God bless you ma'am God bless you both!" The young man stretched out his hand to me to give me hand-shake, and he did the same to my son who also stretched out his little hand to shake his.  I responded with a "You're welcome, and we hope you enjoy it!"

We turned around, and walked away.  I looked down at my son, and I as hugged him I said "Thank you, for doing this with me! We are truly blessed!"  I asked him how did he feel, and he tells me, "Mami, I feel good!"  In the car, I just started sobbing. Crying tears of gratitude, and feeling that God had indeed used my child and I as instruments to serve the less fortunate; and that my child learned a valuable lesson on empathy, kindness, and gratitude to mankind.

Tomorrow is #givingtuesday! Check out these wonderful ideas that you can do with your family. Make a difference is someone's life!