Monday, November 17, 2014

Piggy Bank

Of all the things I can teach Jannah-Rae, one thing I know I cannot furnish her with is a generous heart; that has to be of her own making. I can set an example, lead her on the way, entice her to give to others, reward her with encouragement and cheers when she does, talk to her about helping those in need, and about reaching out to those on the sidelines, tell her stories, show her pictures. What I cannot do is do it for her. It has to come from her. It has to be self-propelled.

Jannah-Rae was born with a heart of gold. She is emphatic, sympathetic, kind, and warm. She is loving, gracious, and appreciative. She is also very very generous. And yet it is so easy to forget these qualities when she is having a fit over this or that matter, throwing a tantrum because I said "no" to something or crying because she couldn't have "her way".

Fortunately for me, I get frequent glimpses into Jannah-Rae' heart. Not long ago she wanted to send cards for the kids receiving assistance from the food bank. On Friday  she told me that she was going to play with one of her classmates on the playground, "because no one else does."Last week she became sad when she inquired about one of her classmates and I told her she didn't come to school because although her mother works hard, she could not afford the tuition. She suggested we help her out and insisted on getting a guarantee on when she will return to school. But one of the most touching things she has done is her answer to a fundraising call from Howard County Library. 

It was one day after school when we decided to drive by our mailbox to pick up the mail. Jannah-Rae loves to get mail and so I handed her a piece that looked like it could be for her; it had a picture of kids on the front. I had not closely inspected the item at the time but simply wanted to give her something to amuse herself with while I sorted the other "more important" mail.

"Who is it from, Mama?" I glanced quickly. "It's from the Library." "What do they want?" Another hasty look. "Money," I said quickly and without much thought believing it was going to end there. "How much," was her sequel. "Sixty dollars," was the first number I saw, although when I went and looked again they had tiered donation levels with the sixty centered in the pamphlet so that it was the first I saw when I looked.

What came next, unsolicited, left me speechless. "Do I have sixty dollars in my piggy bank?"

Jammah-Rae had been depositing coins in her piggy bank for years. Recently she and Teta embarked on a new savings scheme: finding pennies on the street and collecting them. She has no less than five boxes she calls piggy banks in her walk-in closet in Columbia,

and two at Teta's house. They are all heavy with metal.

"I am not sure, Jannah-Rae. When we get home we can look and see." And before I closed the basement door behind me, she was already in her room carefully examining a handful of bright pink slips of paper.

"Do I have enough?" she implored.

When Grandma was here, the two of them spent over an hour on a special project: sort, count and record how many of each coin category she had in each box and total all the individual sums for a grand total.

She was a few dollars short. "You only have $56," I said. Her face fell, but only for a brief moment. It then lighted up and beamed. "I will give them all of it!"

And that was that!

post note: JR then called Teta and told her the library was asking for money. I do not have enough, she said. Could you give me some more, she asked. That little girl was determined to give all she can to a cause she believes in. 

I wonder how she would have reacted had I quoted the lesser amount noted on the solicitation mailer. Would she still have given them all she had, or would she have given just what was asked. Either, though, I am certain she would have given, without any reluctance.

"Of all the heartbreaks in Beirut, and there are many, the Syrian refugees stood out the most on this trip. There have always been Syrian kids hustling cars at stoplights for spare change and a thousand Lebanese lira, often in exchange for some trinket or a packet of tissues. But this time there are many, many more. Dumpsters are raided on a daily basis, usually during the afternoon or early evening, for any edible scraps of food or something that can be re-used. On every corner and almost every light you will see a Syrian mother with her children begging for change. One time on the way from the grocery store I dropped a couple of coins into the hand of one of these mothers. Jannah-Rae asked what I was doing and why, so I explained to her that some people don't have food or clothes, or a place to live, so it's good to help them. She noticed the children of this refugee and after we walked a few steps away, she said "I want to help them." So, on her own, she asked if she could give something to the children since they had none. She took her mom's hand and walked back to the children, and gave the first one her treat, a chocolate croissant. As she was walking away she noticed another child had nothing, so she asked to give this one her other treat. Again, walking away, she noticed a third child. But she was out of treats, so she asked her mother for something to give. Ranya gave her a coin, and Jannah-Rae happily gave it to the third child. I have never been so proud of or humbled by my daughter. Not just because she did a good deed, but because of the expression of pure joy on her face for having done so as we walked home, without her treats."                                                                                                                       ~ Jeff on Jannah-Rae January '14 
Jannah-Rae in Rawche ~ November 2013

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