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Previous Challenge Entry
Topic: Poor (10/25/04)

TITLE: Potty Trained
By Kathleen Shelton


It was Christmas 1987 and I had found myself a new chair. It fit better than any recliner, more comfortable than an old bathrobe, and it was portable! It was the pity pot-my very own, nicely fitting pity pot. And I took it everywhere with me.

I was a single mother with just barely enough money to put food on the table and pay the bills. We lived in the rough, run down, poor side of town. I had no car, couldn’t afford the extra for a bus, so I walked back and forth to work. It was just a year after my ex husband had kidnapped my son. Now, here it was Christmas, and I was moaning and groaning in self pity because I could not afford to give my two daughters the Christmas that I wanted to.

I called Sherry and Patti in for a family conference. I explained to both of them that I had only one hundred dollars that I could rake up for Christmas. I told them that each one could have fifty dollars and decide what they wanted for Christmas. They asked if they could think about it.

The next day, they called me to the kitchen table (our favorite gathering place) and informed me that they had decided what they wanted. There was a family down the street who would not have any Christmas at all. The father had recently died, and the struggling mother could not give her children a Christmas. My two daughters informed me that they were old enough to understand, but that these were little children, too young to comprehend not getting any presents.

I hung my head in shame. I was wallowing in self pity, crying because I couldn’t have everything I wanted, and yet, my two beautiful daughters were willing to give up their own Christmas for others. I agreed, gave them the money, and let them go shopping.

A few days later, David P, a customer of mine walked into the shop where I worked. He placed something in my hand with the words "God laid it in my heart to give this to you”, then promptly turned around and walked out the door. I gasped. In my hand was a crisp one hundred dollar bill.

Neither one of my daughters is well off by the world’s standards, but, in my eyes, they are two of the richest people I have had the privilege to know. They both have their share of struggles. Patti is married and the mother of three. Sherry is a single mother of four who works and goes to school full time. Yet, they always seem to find someone who is worse off than them. Each is still willing to sacrifice in order to reach out a helping hand to those that need it. Each still sponsors a less fortunate family at Christmas time. Each has taught their children the gift of giving.

Myself, I had a crash course in being potty trained that year. I had been shown that although I was poor materially, I was indeed rich. Although I could not give all I wanted to my children, I was able to provide all they needed. I had children who understood and showed compassion; children that did not look at or see their own lack and needs, but those of others.

That year was a special year indeed, but, many years later, my daughter enriched my life even more. They gave a richness to my life that I never imagined could be there. They introduced me to Christ.

There are times when I still find myself drawn to the pity pot, when I worry about my finances, when I long for something I cannot afford. But then, I look around and see the ones without a job or home, the ones not knowing where their next meal will come from. Then I think of how blessed my life really is, that although I may not have everything I desire, that unlike so many, I have everything I need.

So even though by human nature, I may slip a time or two and accidentally find myself back on my so well fitted pity pot, I believe that overall, I have been pretty much potty trained. All I have to do is look around and see others who have so much more lack than I and then look ahead to the riches that await me for eternity.

Kathleen Ann Shelton

Member Comments
Member Date
Corinne Smelker 11/01/04
I had to laugh at the title, but then I stopped laughing when I saw myself in your story! There was a time a couple of years ago where we had little $$ for Christmas and my kids were more concerned about the faces they saw on the "Need Tree" at church than the gifts that might or might not appear under theirs. God then blessed us with a cheque that covered their gifts and the ones for the need tree. We serve a good, faithful God!
Charles Lee11/01/04
Kathleen, my children have taught me some very important lessons in life. And they are still teaching. Great article.
Mitzi Busby11/02/04
Kathleen, Beautiful story.
Lynda Lee Schab 11/02/04
What a wonderful article - you shared openly and your message came across loud and clear. If only we could all look beyond ourselves & realize how blessed we truly are.
Well done!
Blessings, Lynda
Barbie Jones11/02/04
Kathleen I raised two daughters and have also walked some of the same paths you have. I enoyed your story.
Lois Jennison Tribble11/02/04
Great title, with a lesson for all of us that we'd rather God would not teach us. Thanks for sharing it!
darlene hight11/03/04
Kathleen great story~! I too loved the title.
Joanne Malley11/03/04
Wonderful, insightful article. I love to be reminded about how fortunate and blessed I am through the generosity of the Lord.
Cheryl Johnson11/05/04
wow, that was a great piece. I needed that. I have my own pity pot too. Great way to put it. That's what drew me to your piece - the potty trained title. I have a 3yr.old :) wow. I needed that. Thanks for posting it.
Debbie OConnor11/05/04
Great story! I liked the message and loved the title.
Phyllis Inniss11/06/04
This is a great story. You are rich in your children - God has given you abundantly. Thanks for sharing.
Carol Shaffron11/07/04
brought tears to my eyes....