Children are egocentric by nature. Therefore, teaching the most important things in life, such as genuine thanks and caring, takes more than just words. It takes doing.
After writing letters and drawing pictures for Sergeant Curran, our pen-pal stationed in Afghanistan, we hosted bake sales at school to raise money in order to buy him items that he might need. As families arrived at school, children rang our bell, the kind used on a counter at a store to alert a clerk. The bell is red- we love that bell! Children were chanting, “Cookies for sale, muffins for sale”, in much the same way the peddler chants “Caps, caps for sale. Fifty cents a cap” in the classic book Caps For Sale. Perhaps the most fun was using a cash register to collect money and make the correct change. We raised a little over $200.00.
Afterwards, the money in hand was a perfect tool for one of our best lessons in math. Children gathered around the big, round table and watched as I opened the cash register. I stacked all the one-dollar, five-dollar, and ten-dollar bills in separate piles. We even had a few twenties. I then taught the children that four quarters = one dollar, and ten dimes = one dollar. We put the quarters in stacks of four and the dimes in stacks of ten. Then we counted, from coins to twenty dollar bills, stopping along the way to learn that two fives = one ten. What a great, hands-on math lesson. Twenty minutes of engrossed children.
CVS is a short walk away, and we headed there to spend our $200.00 on what the children thought Sergeant Curran needed. They made a list:
pencil and pen (rainbow)
Army guy book
snacks – Slim Jim
Children picked out all the items on their list (except for the drum). We had money to spare… now the children could follow their hearts, and not ‘a list’. They were thrilled. So they bought:
golden plastic eggs
Paw Patrol mini basketball hoop and ball
crossword puzzle books
I completely agreed with their choices. Children suddenly went from what they felt Sergeant Curran needed to what he wanted. The mind and the heart, working in unison, can be magic.
Back at school, we took time to spread out all the items for the children to see.
Looking at everything on the floor was… well, like walking into Fenway Park for the first time, or Christmas morning. Children were overcome; the gifts staring at them right in the face, represented all that they had done, from the bake sale to CVS. It felt good! The children stared. No words were needed. This was a time to let it all soak in, what we did for Sergeant Curran.
Giving. For young children this is not so easy, because in their world they come first. They’re still learning about themselves, much less other people. And that’s okay. A real and meaningful giving experience has to be hands-on in order for children to grasp it’s importance.
That’s what we did, and children understood. They stepped outside of their world and wanted to give. And, it felt good. Sergeant Curran will be on leave the end of May. Can you imagine the shouts, hugs, tears, singing, stories… when he visits the children?