My godson is 4 years old. A couple of years ago when he got old enough to want non-practical presents (toys for him rather than helpful things for mom and dad) I decided that I didn’t want to participate in feeding his consumerist mentality. I’d made the same decision many years ago with my adult friends as well. Instead I wanted to be a role model in his life for real gifting - from the heart. I give him my time – play with him, special trips with him, talking to him, and occasionally something I make for him. I want to give him the kinds of gifts that will build a connection between us and help him understand that the best gifts are not physical, edible, or playable.
Last year his parents bought him a couple of gerbils. Gerbils love to eat the cardboard toilet paper rolls and they told me they just didn’t go through enough of them by themselves. I dutifully started saving mine.
Tonight I went by their house to visit them there for the first time in a while. I brought with me a full grocery bag of toilet paper rolls (yes several months worth). Just before I left I told my godson that I “had something for him.” Immediately he wanted to know what it was…ice cream, cake, cookies, candy…nope. I had him come out to the car with me and asked him what his gerbils liked to play with. When he couldn’t remember I showed him one of the rolls and then the whole bag. As any 4 year old would be he was disappointed and wanted to know how that was a “present for him”. I reminded him that I didn’t say I had a “present” for him and that not all gifts are candy and sugar.
By the time we got back in the house he was beaming and gleefully showed the bag to his parents. A few minutes later as I was getting ready to leave he said “I have something for you too” and walked into the kitchen. When he came back he had in his hand - cheese! A few moments later when I was standing at the door he put something in my hand and said “This is a ticket for being nice.” The item was a crumpled edge of a piece of paper pulled from a spiral notebook! I promised him I would save it and gladly added it to my altar of special items when I returned home.
I know he’s not really old enough to understand this concept yet…but he’s definitely starting to get the difference!
What are your experiences with spreading the concepts you learn at Burning Man?