A huge thanks to all who weighed in with thoughtful comments on my Gift of a Goat post. In it, I was contemplating whether or not I should encourage my 5-year-old to get donations (to buy a goat through Heifer International) instead of gifts for his birthday party. The thoughtful comments were filled with great ideas, kindness and support. It was amazing and beautiful how women stick together to support and guide each other – thank you!
The post caught the attention of Pierre Ferrari, the CEO of Heifer International, and he was kind enough to leave a response. I was really struggling, wondering if Anthony was too young to do something like this. He helped so much by saying, “There are no easy answers. My take on this is that doing good for other should never feel like a sacrifice. Why substitute one form of suffering for another? The learning in time is to find the awesome liberating joy that comes with sharing. If it is not there, and it takes time, then don’t push it.”
These words gave me the freedom and confidence to work with Anthony and really make it his choice. Pierre also gave a link to a site Heifer created specifically for children.
We grabbed a globe and started talking. We looked at Guatemala where kids go to school an average of 4 years. We watched videos of Pencils of Promise building schools, so kids there could go to school, just like him. We talked about real problems: going to bed hungry, not having access to a school and not having shoes. He got it, these kids are like him: they laugh at silly jokes, they love soccer and want to learn how to read. I explained that we won “the genetic lottery” and if we choose to, we can help.
Heifer’s “Awesome Interactive Gift Giving Experience” site helped drive home this concept of “helping those less fortunate.” The app is created for a child and helps him or her to identify with a kid in a third world country. For example, both children like playing soccer. They then explain that this kid (Paco) is hungry, but there is a solution they tell us. They teach the viewer about the different types of animals they can give and how each can contribute to “Paco’s community.” Anthony loved it! He wanted to help!
He made up his mind that he wanted to raise enough money to buy a water buffalo and bees. Being a 5-year-old boy, he loved that one of the ways a water buffalo helps the owner is simply by pooping. Turns out, water buffalo dung is great fertilizer! Also, he thought that because bees make honey, soap and wax, they would be very helpful too. He really got excited about this. He started telling everyone about what bees make and how two water buffaloes would make babies to help more people. (I’m definitely not ready for that conversation yet!) I knew that I had been steering his growth in the right direction when one night as he was falling asleep, he asked “Mom, by the time I’m 80, will there be enough water buffaloes for everyone?”
I believe we often get what we want out of life. It doesn’t necessarily happen in the exact way we want it or follow the timeline we set, but ultimately our intentions can become our reality. My intention is to raise thoughtful, kind and grateful kids. I know we’ll have many bumps along the road, but this was a great event for us as a family. Thanks to the generosity of our guests we surpassed Anthony’s dreams! We are able to buy a water buffalo, bees AND a goat!
Honestly, I learned a lot, too. I was reminded that kids don’t need “stuff” to be happy. It’s so tempting in this country filled with “stuff” to buy more of it. I was also reminded that I don’t need “stuff” either. So next time I’m tempted to buy another black sweater or another pair of jeans, I’ll look to my son as a role model and put that money towards some bees instead!
[ Editor’s Note: Please see the original story, The Gift of a Goat, which posted on January 12, 2012. ]
Ellen Padnos lives in Manhattan Beach, CA with her husband, Ben, her children Anthony (5), and Annie (1), and her Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Lola. You can also follow her on Twitter (@ellenpadnos).