Normally, I love the dollar bins at Target.
They are right up front, filled with all sorts of cheap trinkets and chic treasures. They are glossy and bright and alluring and everything is a dollar. (Except for the items that are $2.50. Sneaky Target executives, I’m on to you.)
I try to walk by the bins without looking, without allowing my eyes to be dazzled by their glitzy wares. But one dollar for a complete set of markers? One dollar for brand new kitchen towels? One dollar for funky seasonal socks?
Who can resist that?
But this summer, I almost lost my dollar bin affinity, thanks to my children.
In mid-June, on my first Target excursion with all three kids in tow, I thought it might be fun to let the older two pick out a small toy from the dollar bins as soon as we got in the store. I hoped it would inspire joyful obedience the rest of the trip and cheerful gratitude the rest of the day.
I was wrong. (Rookie mistake.)
Instead, that kind gesture led Connor and Natalie to expect a bauble every time we set foot in Target the rest of the summer.
“Buuuuuttttt Mommmmmm,” they would whine, “I really, really want something. What about this skull piggy bank? Or this remote controlled Curious George gum machine? I’ve always wanted one. Please? Just one? Pleeeeeease?”
I gritted my teeth and denied (and denied and denied) their requests. Inwardly, I fumed at their lack of gratitude and their disdain for the many blessings they already have.
How do parents constructively and meaningfully instill a sense of gratitude in their children, especially American children who are so very blessed?
That question was one of the primary reasons why my husband and I chose to sponsor two children in third-world countries - one through Compassion International and one through World Vision. (Those of you who know my husband's past know the other reason why child sponsorship means so much to us.)
Karla, the little girl we sponsor through Compassion, is seven, the same age as Natalie. She lives in El Salvador with her mother and does chores around the house. She goes to school and works hard at reading and writing.
Maynor, the boy we sponsor through World Vision, is four, the same age as Connor. (The exact same age, actually. They share the same birthday.) He lives in Nicaragua with his parents and plays trucks and helps with the harvest as much as he's able.
To my children, Karla and Maynor represent a life they can’t imagine – a life without piles of toys, without an abundance of food, without a closet full of clothes. And they are real. Their pictures hang on our fridge. We get letters from them, covered with drawings and hand prints. Our kids write back. They learn that there are millions of children around the world, just like Karla and Maynor, who live in poverty. Children who don’t have a Target down the street, much less the money to buy a new toy every week.
We try to remember to pray for Karla and Maynor everyday. We pray that God would bless them and their families, that they would feel God’s love, that He would woo their hearts, that they would grow up healthy and strong. The $30+ a month that we send Compassion and World Vision helps realize some of those requests.
At the same time, we also pray for us, that as our family sponsors Karla and Maynor, we would truly learn the meaning of gratitude and compassion. We have so much.
So very much.
And unlike the cheap trinkets at Target, Karla's and Maynor’s worth is priceless.
If you’d like to learn more about sponsoring a child through Compassion, click here.
Kelly also blogs at Love Well.