Have you ever read “How full is your bucket?” It’s a children’s book based on the bestselling adult version by Tom Rath. The story explains that doing nice things for others not only helps them…it helps you, too. I truly believe some kids are born with a very empathetic nature and some kids need to learn it. I also believe that the kids who are born with empathy need to have it nurtured.
Empathy is an emotion that has been widely recognized as a means to “bully proof” kids.
Empathy is a quiet, powerful work; it is the power of understanding and imaginatively entering into another person’s feelings, or in simple colloquialism “walking in someone else’s shoes.” It is about “connecting.” Bullying, conversely, is about “disconnection.” The bully needs to identify and establish something about the victim that is different (that provides reason to disassociate) in order to bully. The bully needs to feel and believe there is a disconnection. In some ways bullying serves as a barometer showing the health of our communities. It measures the level of disconnect we allow between one another. – Diane Murrell, Clinical Social Worker
My daughter is naturally empathetic. When a friend hurts, she hurts right along with them. My son, on the other hand, needs to be coached on how someone else might be feeling…we often have conversations that involve, “how would it make you feel if that happened to you.” I consciously make an effort to tap into those feelings. I know, deep down, he has them, but we have to work to bring them to the surface.
Recently, I was given the opportunity to participate in Metropolis at Metrotown’s #PayItForward campaign, in support of Pink Shirt Day. We were given 5 x $10 gift cards to use in the mall. The only caviat was that we had to use the money to do good deeds for others…not ourselves.
My son had a bit of a hard time with this. ”Why can’t we buy a toy??” I explained that today we were going to do nice things for people other than ourselves, and I promised that it would feel good. After collecting our cards, we sat in the food court and made a list of things we could do. I was surprised at how difficult it was to think of things…this should have been easy!! But the kids were distracted (and tired after a full day at school), so the creative juices weren’t flowing.
I decided we’d start off by doing something simple…something they could watch me do and see the effect. We approached the Starbucks in the food court and I told the kids that I was going to buy a coffee for the next person who lined up. A young guy approached and I told him what we were up to. He smiled when I offered to buy his coffee and enthusiastically said yes (I have to give him mass credit as he was truly animated in his gratitude…I’m certain this was to benefit the kids).
So, we were off to a good start. The kids kept talking about how we “made the man happy,” as we walked to our next destination. One of my daughter’s suggestions was to “buy food for the poor,” so we were headed to Superstore. As we walked in there was a flower display to our right.
“Oh mom, we could buy flowers for someone?” my little girl suggested. ”Great idea,” I said. ”Who do you think would like some flowers? Maybe someone on our street…someone who lives by themselves?”
“Helen!!” my little guy shouted. Helen is our elderly neighbour. She was recently widowed and I imagined having a bunch of pretty tulips delivered by these two would brighten her day. I was right. When we delivered the flowers the next day, she was bursting with gratitude. She even gave the kids a box of chocolates in return…
“See,” I said. ”Sometimes when you do nice things for people, they do something kind for you in return.”
As we continued through the Superstore, I noticed a large display of dog treats that were on sale. My daughter is a real animal lover. She even initiated her own read-a-thon last summer to raise money for the SPCA. I knew a gentle suggestion would prompt our next good deed.
“Hey…look at all these treats. I wonder if we could do something with these?”
“The SPCA, Mommy!” she jumped up and down. ”We could buy some treats for the doggies!”
The next day, she and my mom delivered the treats to our local SPCA. My mom said that my little girl told the shelter volunteer, “the only condition is that you pay it forward…” She was getting it.
Back at the Superstore, we were trying to decide what food to get to donate to the Food Bank. We settled on spaghetti, sauce and a few cans of hearty soup. After we paid for our haul with the gift cards, we proceeded to the in-store donation bin.
“I bet someone will have a really yummy dinner, now,” said my little boy.
“How does that make you feel inside?” I asked.
“Happy,” he earnestly replied. He had stopped asking if we could go and get a toy.
We still had about $10 left. Engery was running low, but I was determined to spend every cent. We headed to Target with the intention of buying a bunch of socks for a shelter. However, the selection was surprisingly sparse, so we had to think of something else. We walked through the baby section and I suggested some diapers for mommies and daddies who couldn’t afford to buy them. We all agreed this was a good idea, so we made our final purchase.
I was so proud of my kids for helping me with our “special mission” as I had dubbed it. Anyone with kids knows how trying traipsing around a mall with them can be. They were troopers and really got into the spirit of what we were doing. I decided to thank them for their help by allowing them to pick out something from the dollar store. They both settled on yoyos.
All in all, it was a really successful experience. I’d recommend doing something similar with your kids, if you are looking for a way to teach them about giving with out the expectation of receiving…and how good it feels.
Do it with your kids!
Small acts of kindness can make a big difference. What could you do with $10 to make someone’s day? Submit your idea and enter for a chance to win yourself a $500 shopping spree to Metropolis at Metrotown, and an additional $500 to a local charity!
I’ve teamed up with Metropolis at Metrotown to give you another chance to Pay it Forward! I have $50 of Metrotown dollars to give away. The only condition is that you use it to do good deeds for others! To win the $50, you need to leave a comment on this post telling me how you would spend the $50. For extra entries, follow the directions in the Rafflecopter form below!by