“I have a dinner project for us,” I told my family. “We’re going to pick out something we want to buy out of these catalogues.
My husband looked perplexed, I’m sure wondering what on earth I was thinking. We usually don’t allow reading at the dinner table.
The kids had been bickering, and he was worn out from work. Everyone’s attitude needed a reset, and I thought this little exercise would do the trick.
I placed two catalogues on the dinner table. They appeared similar, with white backgrounds and bright photos printed on glossy paper, red headlines in festive fonts, and smiling children of all skin colors. The items they sold were similar, as well. Blankets for infants, books, stuffed animals, and even medical supplies.
Both catalogues were filled with items meant to be gifts. Special items that the recipients, themselves, had no means to buy. Yet, despite their similarities, the differences were stark.
One of the catalogues was a prestigious doll catalogue, full of luxury dolls and accessories for little girls who are arguably privileged. The other was the gift catalogue for Samaritan’s Purse, offering many opportunities to buy needed items for people in need.
I knew we’d only peruse one catalogue, but I wanted us all to think about what kind of choices we have, and our blessings.
As a point of comparison, I pointed out that for $14 we could buy an adorable baby blanket for a pampered baby doll. Or, we could spend $6 and buy a warm blanket that would be delivered to someone after a disaster.
We compared other items, also. We looked at a $48 doll high chair versus a $45 gift toward prenatal and baby-care items in remote villages. There was a $28 lunch box of plastic food that we compared to a $7 gift that would provide a full week’s worth of hot meals to a hungry child.
We did the math, realizing that for the price of the plastic food, we could feed a child for almost a full month. We could even buy plastic medical supplies for the dolls, or chip in on a medical trip to provide surgery for a child in desperate need.
After we’d read through the descriptions and looked at the photos, I asked the kids if there was anything they thought they’d like to give. My daughter happily settled on baby chicks and veterinary care that allowed a family to raise chickens and sell eggs.
My son said, soberly, “I want to do all of it, mom.”
We can’t do it all. We can’t help everyone around the whole world, but we can do our small part. I know that if my kids wake up on Christmas morning to find that Santa delivered a gift to a child in need, on their behalf, well, they’ll be happy about that. (Of course, my kids will get something too, Santa’s generous like that!)
After our dinnertime exercise, everyone’s moods changed. We were all more grateful, more content.
I always hear, a key to happiness is to not compare your life to others’. I’d say, quite the opposite can be true. It just depends on who you compare to, and what you do about it once you see the differences.
Reach Overland Park mom Emily Parnell at firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter:@emilyJparnell.