Ding-ding ding-ding ding-ding.
Marilyn dug into her purse and pulled out a heavy handful of change. “Here Honey, do you want to put this money in that red bucket over there?”
Nicholas looked up to see a young woman bundled in a warm coat, hat, and thick mittens. She was ringing a bell and dancing from one foot to the other in an effort to keep warm.
Fascinated by the bell, the bucket, and the sound of coins clinking inside, Nicholas nodded and held out his hand.
Marilyn carefully closed the fingers of her five-year-old son’s hand around the mound of change in his palm. She smiled as he carefully emptied the contents into the bucket.
Nicholas trotted back and took his mother’s outstretched hand. Together they walked into the crowded discount store. Nicholas kept glancing back over his shoulder to watch others unload their change into the container.
“What’s that lady gonna do with all that money, Mom?”
“What lady?” Marilyn responded absently as she examined a packaged set of shower gels that would make the perfect gift for her niece.
“That lady.” Nicholas pointed toward the exit, “Outside.”
“Oh, I guess I should have told you about that.” Marilyn went on to explain, “Well, some people collect money to help feed other people who are hungry.” She stated simply.
“Why are they hungry? Why don’t they just ask their Moms for some supper?” To Nicholas it was ridiculously obvious.
“The Moms are poor too, and they don’t have any money to buy food for supper.” Marilyn gave up on the bath products and walked with her son through the busy aisles.
“But where are the Dads?!” Nicholas was alarmed at this new revelation. “How come the Dads don’t give the Moms money to buy food?”
Marilyn suddenly realized the importance of this issue to her son, and made her way to the sparsely populated shoe department. She sat her son on a nearby bench and knelt down so she could talk to her little boy face to face. “Well, Sweetheart, sometimes the whole family is poor, even the Dads – maybe it’s hard for them to find good jobs. And some little children don’t even have Daddies in their house.” Marilyn hated sharing this sad truth with her innocent son, but she and Matt felt it imperative that they always speak truthfully to their children.
“They don’t have Daddies?” Nicholas repeated softly. He wanted to make sure he’d heard right.
“Some of them don’t. It’s sad isn’t it?” Marilyn sympathetically stroked her son’s hair. “We must remember to pray for those families. God loves them too, and He’ll use the money you put in the bucket to help them.”
“OK.” Nicholas said, and immediately closed his eyes, folded his hands, and bowed his head, waiting expectantly for his mother to begin the prayer.
Marilyn didn’t even notice the couple beside them trying on tennis shoes, her son’s urgent compassion consumed her attention. Together they prayed for the kids who were hungry, and for the Moms who couldn’t feed them, and the Dads who couldn’t help.
“In Jesus’ name, Amen.” Nicholas and his Mom said together.
Marilyn gave Nicholas a reassuring hug and then fumbled for a tissue to dab her eyes.
Later that evening, Matt walked into the kitchen and greeted his wife as she fixed a salad for their supper.
Matt noticed a small pile of change on the counter. “What’s this?” he asked with a curious arch of his eyebrows.
“Your son is on a mission. He’s already scoured my car and the laundry room for loose change.” She smiled. “Your pockets are next on his list.”
Marilyn gave her husband a basket of bread and a kiss, then followed him to the supper table. “He learned a grown-up lesson today, and he opened my eyes in the process, but I’ll let him tell you all about it.”
“I can’t wait!” Matt chuckled as his son gave him a quick hug around the middle, then stuck a small hand into his Dad’s pocket.