When my children were young, my home was a little store house of party favours like crayons, colorful lunch boxes, board games, paint boxes, tiny toys, sketch pens, pencil pouches and other birthday return gifts.
This was despite the fact, that we were regular contributors to the toy bank. Almost every other week, they attended a birthday party between the school friends and apartment friends, and they returned home with party favours.
Initially, I shared the many goodies with the maid and other service provider’s family in our apartment. After a point, even my ‘well to do’ servant refused to take saying that she had many boxes, pouches, water bottles at home. I didn’t know what to do with so many of them. How many of them to use? And they were all stacked up in the cupboard occupying space.
It was during one of those days, we were crossing the Paradise signal (a traffic junction in Hyderabad) . At this signal, it is a regular feature to see a few poor people tapping the car windows and begging for alms with children strapped to them and a few holding on to the mom’s saree end. We generally drop a few coins in to their hands. Just then, my 7-year-old son said, “Ma, give those colourful gifts to them, they will be happy”. It indeed occurred to me then, why not share with them those gifts?
And from then on, our car was loaded with boxes, pouches and outgrown dresses . Whenever, we crossed any signal and found ‘the children of lesser god’, We gave away the gifts to them along with a few chocolates. I don’t know if it was useful for them, but the colors of the gifts brought a broad smile on their faces. It really gave us so much joy to see those little lit faces. And my children too had great pleasure while handing them over to them.
On an other instance, I was touched when my daughter displayed her compassionate heart too.
Generally, we celebrate two birthdays of our kids, one is a party kinds thrown on their actual day of birth, with friends and the cake cutting ceremony. The other is a traditional one celebrated according to the Hindu almanac called ‘the star birthday’.
We were at a famous temple Skanda giri, which celebrated navaratri by keeping Golu (a tradition of arranging dolls). We had sponsored ‘poor feeding’ during the navaratri called ‘anna daanam’. She saw us booking the dates etc., and then exclaimed “Appa! I am not throwing a party for my friends this year, let us do this ‘anna danam’ on my birthday too”.
We immediately registered her ‘birth-date’, September 29th, at the temple for sponsoring the ‘anna daanam’. The temple authorities asked us if we would be present at the time of ‘poor feeding’. Since, it was a working day, we decided we would not be able to make it to the program. But on the D-day, we changed our mind, decided to go early to the temple and my husband planned to drive to work from there.
On reaching there, my daughter insisted that she wanted to serve them all. We initially thought we would serve the first few and leave. But serving the under privileged brought us so much of satisfaction that we stayed there till the end of the program, and we did not mind being late to work once.
The amount of joy and contentment we felt while giving out the food bowls can’t be encompassed in words. A day that taught – ‘joy is giving in kind and not just donating cash’. I am sure many of us would have adopted a child at CRY, be a sponsor at ‘Helpage India’ or would be contributing in cash to child education, etc. But the joy of giving/serving in kind is something different, which can only be experienced and not expressed in words.
When I hugged her tight that day, she said she observed her appa doing that to the poor students. My husband was a volunteer as a part of his company’s CSR at a government college in Bangalore and taught Computer science to the 12th grade children during weekends.
All the volunteers were once honoured at a party, where the family of volunteers were also invited . At the party, the students surrounded my husband and thanked him . The incident was embedded in her mind. When she related the event, it made me think how much the little innocent minds observe, absorb and freeze them in memory. Every move of a parent is being watched and emulated.
As for me, I am glad they have imbibed the value of giving , caring, sharing and being kind which they are carrying through till date by being an active participant in the social service clubs.
I feel emotions like gratitude, humility, kindness, empathy, compassion, personal service for fellow beings are important emotional cushions for our children as they grow and amass money and material comforts in future.
If these values are instilled in a child, be rest assured, they will be the happiest and successful souls on earth which is what any parent would want.
Don’t you agree, Parentous folks?
Asha Balakrishnan is a hardware design engineer by profession, a certified online grader for SAT, GRE, GMAT and other essays by choice, A SAHM, a blogger. Born in Chennai, brought up in Bangalore and now she calls Hyderabad her home. A mother to two teens aged 15 and 13.