Pre-Order So God Made a Mother

My daughter clutched her piggy bank tightly as we walked into the store. She must be having second thoughts, I thought. I’m a terrible parent. How are empathy and compassion this hard to teach to a 5-year-old? How do you teach a child who has every opportunity and never goes without food, clothes, or toys that this isn’t the norm, especially when all of her friends never go without either?

Growing up in an upper-middle-class area, I thought that was the norm as well. But we always volunteered at church activities, collected canned goods, donated old clothes to Goodwill. It wasn’t until my mom brought me to a soup kitchen in the inner city of Detroit at the age of 12 that I truly realized how blessed I was. It was there I saw where the canned goods, old clothing, and monetary donations went. I was shocked to see elderly people who could barely walk with no coat in the frigid Michigan winter. The single mom with four children all clinging to her for the rest of the food on her plate. I also saw many smiles. Smiles of thankfulness that we were there to serve them a warm plate of food.

RELATED: Please Keep Giving To Angel Tree Children Like Me

It was there I learned empathy and compassion. I felt so guilty leaving that day in my warm clothes. I felt guilty for always wanting more from my parents. It was there I decided I wanted to do more and give back. From then on, we went once a month to help feed the homeless and each time we went, more people would join us and learn the gift of giving.

I was now standing at Target in my mother’s shoes. I wanted my daughter to learn compassion and empathy.

As a parent, those things are hard to teach your children but they’re the most important. It’s great to teach our children confidence, manners, kindness. It’s important for our children to do well in school, be good at a sport, have a work ethic, but are we all teaching empathy? One of the fundamental things Jesus taught was that of empathy and helping others. We all want to give our children every opportunity, and we never want them to go without. But somewhere in there is a fine line.

I decided to cross that line as my 5-year-old was at the age when she was starting to think that asking for a ton of Christmas gifts was normal. At the place where halfway through this crazy year, I gave in and started saying yes to everything because I was too tired to fight. In a year when the norm is staying six feet away from each other, how do you demonstrate empathy, compassion, and grace to one another? I explained to her how Mom and Dad decided this year to choose organizations to donate money and gifts to and asked if she wanted to be a part of helping.

RELATED: I Was the Angel on the Tree and This is What Our Family Really Needed

She immediately started asking questions. Why don’t these kids have parents to buy them presents? Why can’t Santa just bring them gifts? Why can’t these children come live with us? Were these kids like Annie and lived in an orphanage?

First, she offered up her old used toys and clothes. I told her that was a great start, but I think it would also be nice to buy them new toys. She agreed, “Mommy, get your money let’s go get them toys.” Then I showed her the toys I had already purchased for them myself.

She looked over at her piggy bank. Her life savings. She earned $5 a week for her chores. “I guess I could share some of my money,” she hesitantly said.

I told her to grab her bank and we’d go to the store.

So, there we were, standing in Target. She started pointing out the toys she wanted. I reminded her we weren’t there for her. I tried to instill empathy. “There is a little girl your exact age who really wants a new toy. What do you think she would want? There is also a boy your little brother’s age and he has nothing for Christmas either. What kind of toys would he want?”

She clutched her piggy bank and then ran toward the baby dolls. She seemed excited. She started grabbing a ton of stuff and throwing it all into our cart. I explained to her how much money she had to spend (now it was a math lesson as well) and she decided on one big Barbie, a baby doll, and a soccer ball set.

RELATED: Years Ago, I Was the Child Who Opened a Christmas Shoebox—And it Changed My Life

As we stood in line to pay, she seemed upset. I asked her if she still wanted to spend her money to help. She told me she felt bad she couldn’t buy them more stuff. I told her if she really wanted to help more, I could pay her allowance a day early. She nodded and ran back to grab a board game that was on sale. “I think the little girl and boy will love to play this because I love to play this game with my brother,” she said.

As we walked out she looked up at me and said, “That was the most fun I’ve ever had shopping.”

I felt accomplished as a parent hearing that. But I didn’t stop there.  

The next day we drove up to our local soup kitchen where my daughter witnessed us actually handing over the presents. Due to COVID and her age, she couldn’t go into the soup kitchen and see those children receive the presents, but one day she will. I know this will be a memory that will stay with her and will not get lost like a toy. It will be something that sticks with her as it did with me that very cold day in Detroit. I will make sure she knows how blessed she is and how blessed it is to help others.

How the joy of giving is truly better than receiving.

So God Made a Mother book by Leslie Means

If you liked this, you'll love our new book, SO GOD MADE A MOTHER available for pre-order now!

Pre-Order Now

Rachael Ramas

Rachael is a writer and chief encouragement officer to her fam of four. She is a Jesus lover, baby hugger and schedule juggler. As a midwestern girl living in a South Florida world, she enjoys transcribing her time raising her fournager daughter and wild man one year old. She doesn’t take herself too seriously but does her kids bedtime.

Sometimes Love Means Slowing Down

In: Friendship, Kids
Two boys on bicycles riding to park, shown from behind

Think of something faster than a 7-year-old boy on a two-wheel bike. Maybe a race car at the drop of the checkered flag? Perhaps a rocket ship blasting into space? Or how quickly a toddler mom books it out of the house after being told she can have a hands-free hour ALONE in Target. Yes, all of these things are seriously speedy, but I have still never seen anything quite as quick as a boy on a bike on a sunny day with endless open track ahead of him. Until today. Today, my 6-year-old son wanted to ride bikes with...

Keep Reading

I Am a Wrestling Mom

In: Kids, Motherhood
Three young boys with wrestling medals, color photo

As the sun is rising on a frigid winter morning, a brave and determined group of athletes are weighing in at a high school gym. They are physically and mentally preparing for a long day spent at a tournament where they will spend only minutes wrestling, despite the hours they sit and wait all day. Their sport uses offense, defense, and mental strength unlike any other sport. My sons and nephew are wrestlers. They are part of a special team of athletes who work together but compete as individuals.           Their youth team is run by all volunteer coaches with...

Keep Reading

3 Ways to Help Your Firstborn Embrace Becoming a Big Brother

In: Baby, Kids, Motherhood, Toddler
Pregnant woman holding toddler son, color photo

My oldest son turned four right after his first brother was born. Four years of alone time with his parents. Four years of extra mommy time during the week. Four years of having toys to himself, extra attention from family members, and more. I didn’t plan a four-year age gap; it took our family a lot longer and a lot more help than we expected to have our second son, but age gaps aren’t everything. When my second son was finally on the way, I heard a lot of opinions about how our oldest son would feel once he finally...

Keep Reading

Dear Busy Sports Mom: It’s Worth It

In: Kids, Motherhood, Tween
Mom watching soccer game, photo from behind

My daughter stands on the front porch every morning and waves goodbye to me as I pull out of the driveway to go to work.  She is 11, and recently eye-rolling, long sighs, and tears have become more commonplace in our daily interactions. But, there is also this: “Bye! Have a good day!” she calls to me in the quiet of early morning, neighbors not yet awake in their still dark houses. “You are AMAZING! You got this!” she continues in her little adult voice, sounding more like a soccer mom than a fifth grader.   Her hair is still a...

Keep Reading

Goodbye to the Baby Hangers

In: Kids, Motherhood
Shirt hanging from small hanger, color photo

You bought them when you first found out you were pregnant. It may have been one of the first items, actually, to hold all of the precious new clothes. The smallest ones in your household. Do you remember that first newborn onesie you bought? It was one of your favorites. You couldn’t fathom you would soon hold something so small that would fit into that onesie. You washed all of the new clothing in preparation and hung them up in your baby’s closet. You know the item. A miniature version of the ones in your closet. Baby hangers. “Do we...

Keep Reading

Take the Trip, You Won’t Regret It

In: Kids, Living, Motherhood

Two years ago, in the middle of a snowy, windy, Colorado March, my husband and I made the spontaneous decision to road trip to Arizona with our three very young kids.  Even though I was excited, the nerves were so very real. Over the next couple of weeks, I literally lost sleep worrying about the logistics of our trip. My late-night mindless scrolling was replaced by searches like “traveling with toddlers” and “keeping kids entertained on road trips”. We already had our hands full chasing kids at home in a familiar setting. Were we crazy to think we could just...

Keep Reading

They’ll Remember the Love Most of All

In: Kids, Motherhood
Woman with kids from above, pregnant mother with kids hands on belly

You lie in bed at the end of a long day, the events of the day flashing back through your mind. You do this a lot—recap your day as a mama. How did you do? Did you maintain your patience? Did you play enough? Did you limit screen time? Did you yell less today than you did yesterday? You saw a really neat toddler activity in the group you’re a part of on Facebook . . . you should have done that with the kids. They would have loved it. There wasn’t enough time though, and you didn’t have all...

Keep Reading

He’s Slowly Walking Away with Footprints As Big As Mine

In: Child, Kids, Motherhood, Tween
Teen boy walking along beach shore

The true measure of a mother’s love is her willingness to wake up before the sun on vacation. On a recent trip to the shore, my youngest son begged to walk the beach at dawn to look for shells. So, I set my alarm, tumbled out of a warm, king-sized bed with extra squishy pillows, glared at my dead-to-the-world husband, and gently woke my 11-year-old. Without so much as a drop of coffee, we headed out into the morning, the sun still below the ocean horizon. With each step, I shed my zombie-like state and took in the quiet, salt-kissed...

Keep Reading

Dear Son, Raising You Right Is Worth It

In: Kids, Motherhood
little boy walking in sunlit field

You were the baby who slept nights. You were the infant who quietly stacked blocks one on top of the other. You were the toddler who watched other kids go down the slide at the park 20 times before attempting it yourself. You were the preschooler who hunkered down quietly and patiently when meeting your grandmother’s chickens. So I assumed you would be a gentle boy. And you are.   And yet, now that you’re eight, I’m beginning to understand the meaning of the phrase, “Boys will be boys.” I had my first inkling that day when you were five...

Keep Reading

Are You Watching?

In: Child, Kids, Motherhood
Little girl playing goalie at soccer practice, color photo

I brought a book to my 7-year-old daughter’s soccer practice. To be honest, I was looking forward to one hour of time when I didn’t have to do anything but sit. No one would be asking me questions, and no one would need anything from me. I wasn’t in charge. So, I set up my lawn chair, got cozy, and opened the book. But then I happened to glance up as it was her turn to run a drill. The coach was passing each kid the ball for them to kick into the goal. She stepped forward, kicked, and made...

Keep Reading