OUR SECOND GRADER AT THE end of March brought home a writing assignment from school that tickled my husband and me.
“A thing more important than a pot of gold is my parents Pam and Dave because they help me in hard times,” he wrote. “They feed me, buy me stuff, help me with homework.”
Carl, 8, printed these words on lined paper framed with the black outline of a pot and topped with coins he colored yellow before drawing a dollar sign on each one in pencil.
When he left the room, we laughed out of happy disbelief that he wrote “buy me stuff” third, instead of first, on the list of things that he values about us.
This kid loves to shop and pesters us often to head down aisles with the slip of paper that tells him how much money remains in The Daddy Bank – the tally my husband keeps of Carl’s cash reserves garnered from generous friends and family members.
We figured that introducing the bank concept might help him learn how to save and spend more wisely.
Not everyone agrees.
The materialism in our culture jaded one mother I know so much that she banned her two boys from celebrating anything with gifts including Christmas and birthdays.
But her boycott seems destined to backfire.
For one thing, materialism describes an attitude about things versus the possession of things.
A poor person with nothing theoretically can be as materialistic or more materialistic than a rich person with everything.
Secondly, I believe we practice sharing and delighting when we give and receive gifts, be they with or without cash value.
Who wants to get rusty in those areas?
So, my husband and I give our boys toys along with broccoli and set bedtimes, and we trust that they will grow up with a healthy sense of love’s symbolism.
Re-reading Carl’s assignment shows me that maybe, just maybe, our gifts of service – helping him through “hard times” and with his homework – already might be received as gratefully as our ability to buy him “stuff.”
His writing hints at the developmental progression from concrete to abstract in all of us.
If a child consciously cherishes a thing, he then consciously may cherish an action and, finally, a relationship with himself, with others, with God.
After all, stuff and service both only go so far in terms of how much they can enrich a life.
Both seem like coins in the pot – things we can stamp with value and bank – versus the rich veins of gold running on mysterious paths through the earth awaiting discovery.
Carl’s teacher last month asked him and his class to write about “a thing more important than a pot of gold.”
This month, with Easter fresh in mind, I am taking the same challenge to cherish treasures unseen by faith once again.
I pray for what I cannot pay for – for hunger and for joy in my life and the lives of my children.
The hunger is to know more of God and His ways. The joy is to celebrate what is known already, and the blessing is a gold standard that puts lesser things in the proper place.
Pam Mellskog can be reached at Mellskog@msn.com or 303-746-0942.