Today we launch The Spinoff Parents, our new parenting blog made possible by Flick Electric Co. Our first post is by editor Emily Writes, and it’s a celebration – of her son Eddie’s birthday, and the amazing things people (even four year olds) can do.
A wee while ago my three year old son told me that for his fourth birthday he wanted to collect all day for the Wellington Children’s Hospital. He said he wanted to collect six buckets. I’ll admit I was dubious that he would be able to raise that much, but I wanted to support his budding philanthropy. I was also very touched that he’d been able to connect his time in the children’s hospital with the annual collection. He knew that someone had raised money to support him when he’d spent a lot of time in hospital and he wanted to give back.
I was touched – but not really surprised.
Children are generous and kind. They just are. I have met so many kids since becoming a parent and I’m always taken with their kindness. It seems effortless. Whether children are born kind or not, I don’t know. But I do know that kindness in children is common.
And kindness in adults is too.
The intersection, I guess, is when adults assist children to be kind – that’s when I see a kind of kindness boom. It’s there that I see no self-consciousness in compassion; it’s an entirely unencumbered and comfortable affection and graciousness.
I see the greatest empathy in adults when they’re around children. Children bring out the best in us all. And when we help them be their best selves, we help ourselves be better too.
I set a goal of $600 for my son – I figured that’d work out to be about six buckets of coins. I would shoulder-tap slash harass family and friends and hopefully I’d make the goal. I thought I’d ask a few friends if I could bother them at their workplaces and I’d put it on my website.
I was hopeful, but I wasn’t too worried about falling short of the goal. If I did it wouldn’t really matter. My son is like any other three year old – he’s delighted by most things, and doesn’t have high expectations of anything.
After I published a blog post about his little birthday wish I was quickly inundated. Within a few hours we’d passed the $600 goal in online donations alone.
My inbox started to fill up and I had businesses across Wellington inviting Eddie in. I was touched and a little overwhelmed. He was excited.
And when the big day came yesterday I didn’t know what to expect. I should have. I should know now that children inspire in us a special kind of warmth and compassion that we don’t often see in the day-to-day grind.
Our first stop was to collect the buckets. He saw princesses. Success. It was going to be a great day even if it ended just five minutes after the group photo with Belle or Cinderella or whichever princess wears the yellow dress (look – he’s the one obsessed with princesses, not me).
But we told him we were off collecting so we needed to leave the princesses and he skipped toward the car – he was stopped by a man who had a fistful of gold coins. Eddie was ecstatic. The man quickly left after giving his coins but Eddie was fizzing – “Did you see all them coins!!! This is my best day ever!”
We could barely get him into the car to get to our first business.
The first place he visited had balloons and a sign that said Happy Birthday Eddie. They gave more than $600 at that office. At the next they showed him around – he got to see a heap of cool movie memorabilia. At another one of their offices they gave him a tee shirt.
At Powershop, staff gathered and met him with huge smiles, gifts, and of course coins for his bucket.
I was struck by how quickly everyone got down to his level. Everyone bent down and talked to him – looking him in the eye. They accepted hi-fives and said happy birthday to him – they asked him how he was doing. And how it felt to be four (he said he’s taller).
As we left he said “Gosh, very nice people there aye mama?”
We went racing across town to Flick Electric (the wonderful people who made The Spinoff Parents happen!) where I got a bit teary at the unexpected gift for me – and Eddie couldn’t wipe the grin off his face when they gave him a gift too.
Despite being really busy, everyone took the time to say hello to Eddie. They laughed with him, rather than at him. And one sweet woman hugged him. He snuggled into her and afterward said “she must be a nanna”.
He was full of sugar at this point but everyone was patient despite him almost bouncing off the walls.
At the Council he walked in and a group of lovely people began to sing him Happy Birthday – he kept turning around to me as if to say “Can you believe this?? For me!”
He ran into the group and gave an impromptu hug to the nearest person. He was given a cake with a candle. I tried not to tear up when a dog was brought over. Mayor Celia Wade-Brown came and sat down on the concrete with Eddie. She chatted to him easily. She gave him a gift – talked to him about her mayoral chains (“pretty necklaces” as Eddie calls them).
As he was surrounded by people who were patient with his sugar-high-short attention span I thought to myself –
I really, really like people who like kids.
As we left he said “Didn’t you think that was just the best mama? When they singed a song too!”
When we got to Xero Eddie had a line of people to hi-five and fist bump. I watched as each staff member knelt down to his level and talked to him.
It continued on throughout the day. Over and over again I saw examples of adults doing what they could to make a little kid they’d never met before happy.
He was pushed around on a chair at the Office of the Clerk and at the PSA. At The Green Party HQ he was carried around, spun on a chair, given a jacket to hide under and pretend to sleep.
He met little friends who helped carry his bucket when he was tired.
At NZQA the staff member who walked him around became his “best friend” and he held her hand and when he hugged her goodbye said “I’m going to come and see you again”.
Again and again, everywhere we went, he was met by kind adults who wanted to make him smile.
Children are not used to this. They should be.
What kind of world would we live in if children could expect to be met with a smile? If people spoke directly to children instead of about them or over them?
All day people asked Eddie questions instead of speaking directly to me and assuming he could hear: “Eddie? Would you mind if I had a photo with you?”And when a handful of times he said no to photos or no to a hug, they listened.
Eddie’s day or #eddieswish (as we used as a shorthand so friends out of town could follow along on Twitter) turned out to be so much more than a fundraiser for the children’s hospital.
Everyone who met Eddie that day or donated online or supported him taught this child that people are kind. That he should expect people to treat him with respect. That his opinions matter – even if he’s four. That he counts. That he’s not half a person, or just a kid.
He’s not “full of potential”, someone who might change the world one day when he’s an adult – he is realised potential, who can change his corner of the world today, right now.
That what he does matters. That he matters.
At close of day (I write this very tired, with blisters on my feet) his Givealittle is at $4,600 and counting. Across Wellington he collected more than six buckets of notes and coins.
He visited 15 workplaces from 8.30am till he fell asleep on the way to NZ Post just before 4pm.
He doesn’t know how much money he raised and really it doesn’t matter that much. It will make a huge difference at Wellington Children’s Hospital.
But the simple reminder that people are good was the biggest gift. For my son, for me, and I hope for the people who followed along online or met him on the day.
It doesn’t have to end here. Children want to give. They have great ideas. They have so much determination and drive to do good. We just need to listen to them when they tell us that.
We don’t need a reason to invite children into our lives, to listen to their little wishes and try to make them happen. We can do that every day if we want to.
Eddie raised almost $8000 in one day for The Wellington Children’s Hospital.
You can donate to the Wellington Children’s Hospital through the Eddie’s Wish Givealittle page until October 10. Alternatively, donations can be made any time at the Wellington Hospitals Foundation website.
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