There are starving children all over the world. Really, there are. I know this because my parents told me dozens of times during my childhood when I refused to eat what had been prepared for dinner. I vowed to myself at the tender age of eight that I would never use that line on my kids. Sorry, eight-year-old me, I've failed you. Because, this morning I did it. Ava, for the second day in a row refused to finish her YoKids yogurt. She begged me for it at the store and promised me she would eat it all. However, after several minutes of it going untouched I asked her to take a bite. When she did, she made a face as if I had asked her to eat a worm. "It's yucky!" "What's yucky about it?" I ask. "It's not cold," she answers. It had been cold, and technically, it still was. However, it wasn't as cold as Ava would have liked and thus, it was "yucky." So, another container of yogurt went to waste. I never force Ava to finish a meal. My rule is, you eat until you're full. But, after two small bites, I knew she wasn't full. So, I explained to her that she had wasted the yogurt. Her response? "We can buy more." And that's when it happened, the words my parents had used so many times came racing out of my memory and somehow escaped my mouth, "Honey, there are children in the world who don't have any food at all." She looked at me shocked and asked why they don't just go to the grocery store and get some. At this juncture in our conversation, I realized I had two options I could PREACH at Ava about why we don't waste food and how thankful she needs to be, or I could TEACH Ava about why we don't waste food and how blessed we are. I chose the latter.
So, I explained, in three-year-old terms, what hunger means. That there are people in the world and even in our own city who don't have food in their homes, or money to buy food. I could tell she was saddened and immediately began running through her friends' names asking if they had enough food. After reassuring her that her friends were all well-fed, I asked her how it made her feel to know that some children are hungry. "Sad," she answered. I asked how it made her feel that we were blessed to have food in our home, "Happy," she said. Then, I asked what we could do to help people who don't have food. "Give them some of ours," she said emphatically. So, we began scanning our cupboards and chose some canned foods . Then, I called the local food bank and asked what they were in need of and was told tuna fish and peanut butter. So, after ballet off we went to the store to stock up on both, along with some other canned goods, all of which Ava chose.
Soon after, we arrived at the food bank. I let Ava carry a few of the peanut butters in. My heart smiled as I watched my little girl happily bounce through the automatic doors, so excited to make her donation. The man at the front grinned as he saw Ava trot in. She handed him the peanut butter and announced, "My Mommy and I got these for people who don't have food." The man thanked Ava and put the peanut butter in a large box, along with the other boxes and bags of food we had brought.
On our way home I asked Ava how she felt.
"Very happy," she replied.
"What did you learn," I asked.
"I learned that we're blessed to have food and I shouldn't waste it."
"Did you learn anything else?"
She thought for a few seconds.
"It's good to serve people."
She couldn't see me because I was driving, but a big smile came over my face, accompanied by tears in my eyes. I had hoped that from the experience she would obviously stop wasting her food, but more than that, I wanted her to recognize how wonderful it feels when we serve others.
Tonight at bed as we read scriptures, I came across the word "blessing." Ava interrupted me and said, "I have blessings."
"What are they, honey?"
"My family, and Jesus, and food to eat."
So, maybe she learned a lesson. Maybe she'll never waste food again. Probably not, though. What she will do, is remember this experience and the feeling she had as she chose foods she likes, knowing very well they would go to someone else, and being completely okay with that. What I'll remember is how a not-so-stellar morning, provided me with an amazing opportunity to teach my daughter, and the look on her face when I realized the joy she got from serving. I hope she never stops.