As my readers here know, every year my kids, Casey and Emmett, host a holiday toy drive, with all donations going to a nearby pediatric hospital. People always say to me, “Wow! That’s amazing! Your kids have such big hearts!” I hear this and nod and, mostly, agree. My children do have big hearts. They do care. They are, for the most part, empathetic.
But it ain’t perfect.
The wife came up with the toy drive idea many years ago, when Casey (now 10) was 4 or 5. It was a two-part plan: A. It’d result in sick children having a better holiday season; B. It’s teach Casey lessons on empathy and compassion.
That—B—is the big one. Compassion … empathy—they don’t usually come without teaching. You have to show children how lucky they are; that other people are struggling and starving and cold … at the same time we’re in a warm house, eating a nice dinner. There’s no frame of reference for the young. They assume, initially, that everyone has a house and a kitchen and a filled-up refrigerator. So this, really, was a great way to show the l’il Pearlmans that people hurt and suffer and need.
Also, it ain’t easy. As the toys come in, my kids look on and salivate. Dolls! Skateboards! Nerfs! Video games! That’s the hardest part, and to suggest the size of their hearts easily trumps the longing for play stuff would be a lie. They stare longingly; need reminders; encouragement.
Then, it all comes together. Two days ago we drove out to the Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital in Valhalla, N.Y. We packed our two cars with 150 donated toys, and (I’m pretty sure) my kids felt accomplished and fulfilled.
If you donated, a huge, huge, huge thanks. Both for the toys, and the lessons …