At the church I attend, there is a dentist who has a ministry to provide dental services to children and adults all around the world who are desperately poor and often debilitated by their dental problems; people who cannot get even the most basic of care.
On his mission trips, Dr. B. takes with him toys from fast food meals. Every child he treats is given a new, unopened toy and it is astonishing how much it means to them. To me, these toys are a nuisance and junk to be thrown away at the first opportunity, but to these children who have nothing they are treasure.
So, every time we get a fast food meal, I snag the toy and stash it under the seat and then when I get a small collection, I take them to church for Dr. B’s ministry.
So then yesterday, after enjoying a particularly delightful day at the park, we stopped at Sonic on the way home. When the meal came, I removed the toy and tossed it into the backseat while Sean was unawares. But, as we were driving home, he spied it and asked if he could have it.
I took that opportunity to tell him about Dr. B’s ministry and how there are children who don’t have one single toy. Not one. I was hoping to stir up a little charitable compassion in his heart.
“Sean,” I said, “You don’t care about that toy. You won’t even play with it for one second. You have so many toys, we can’t even keep them all in the house!”
“Well, I want this one!” he said adamantly. “I really do.”
“That’s fine,” I said. “It’s your toy and your choice, but I want you to think about it. I want you to think about how many toys you have. I want you to think about if you reallllly want this toy. And then I want you to think about those children who have not even one toy.”
No sound came from the backseat. I was hoping he was envisioning a little boy, just like himself.
And then I heard the sound of the plastic crinkling and pulling and stretching.
“Once you open the toy, I can’t give it to Dr. B.,” I said. “He can only take toys that haven’t been opened yet.”
More crinkling, pulling and stretching. I could see in my rear view mirror that the toy had been freed from the plastic.
I didn’t say anything more. And I’ll be honest here, I was a little disappointed in my child. I had hoped my little speech would inspire in him a charitable spirit.
When we got to the house, I pulled in the garage and started unloading the car. I went in the house with an armload of stuff but when I came back out to the garage for the second load, he was still in his car seat with the toy in his hands and the plastic in his lap.
He wouldn’t look at me but I could see on his face the tremendous weight of sadness. Tears rimmed his eyes and just then one spilled over and trickled down.
“Mom, I changed my mind,” he sobbed, “I want to give this toy away.”
Remorse is the most bitter brand of sad.
“Sean, I’m sorry, but you already opened it. We can’t give it away now. It’s yours to keep.”
“I’m sorry!” he whispered through his tears, “I wish I hadn’t…”
“Yeah, me too dude. Some things can’t be undone.”
He continued to sob and I left him to it as I took another load in the house.
Minutes later he came in the house with the toy. He went to the drawer where I keep the zip lock bags. Sobbing the whole time, he took the toy and put it in a zip lock and then he brought it to me.
I took the toy and wiped his tears, but said nothing more. He put his head in my lap and continued to sob while I stroked his hair.
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This morning, I sit down at my desk with my coffee and my calendar to see about the day and I am confronted with a zip lock bag that contains a cheap fast food toy and the remorse of a small boy.
I look at the bag and I have no idea what to do with it. (Not a solicitation for advice.)
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