From the Mouths (and Gift Cards) of Children

The nine-year old kid wanted to give a newly born cousin a present by using the gift certificate he’d just received.

But I’m cynical and suspect people (even kids with ages based on single digits) have an agenda—usually a self-serving agenda—when they help others.

The nine-year old kid wanted to give a newly born cousin a present by using the gift certificate he’d just received. The certificate was for $20 and would allow him to buy anything at the local Walmart store.

Yeah, but this likely me-first little kid probably didn’t like stuff at Walmart and was only dumping an unwanted gift on the family of his unsuspecting infant cousin.

The nine-year old kid wanted to give a newly born cousin a present by using the gift certificate he’d just received. The certificate was for $20 and would allow him to buy anything at the local Walmart store. The boy had received the gift card, along with a basket of other goodies, from the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

Any-who, I’ve lived into my sixth decade and have witnessed or read about everything. There’s nothing much—good or bad, joyful or perverse—that surprises me anymore.

The nine-year old kid wanted to give a newly born cousin a present by using the gift certificate he’d just received. The certificate was for $20 and would allow him to buy anything at the local Walmart store. The boy had received the gift card, along with a basket of other goodies, from the Make-A-Wish Foundation. He hadn’t sought out the Make-A-Wish Foundation, but several of his family and friends had sent in an application for him . . .

But I’ll (try) be honest with you. That cynicism I first mentioned is frequently accompanied by my sarcasm, skepticism, and grumpiness. We’re all hypocrites and naysayers. We’re living in an era of fake news, with everyone lusting to be famous (and reality star rich).

The nine-year old kid wanted to give a newly born cousin a present by using the gift certificate he’d just received. The certificate was for $20 and would allow him to buy anything at the local Walmart store. The boy had received the gift card, along with a basket of other goodies, from the Make-A-Wish Foundation. He hadn’t sought out the Make-A-Wish Foundation, but several of his family and friends had sent in an application for him . . . because he has—to use a polite but grim phrase—a life-limiting illness.

Maybe he’ll celebrate a tenth birthday. Maybe even a few more candles will be added to his cake—but the odds he’ll live too far into his teenage years, let alone become an adult, are against him.

A few years back, this generous young child was one of my hospice’s pediatric patients. When the social worker assigned to the child shared about him wanting to give one of the Make-A-Wish gifts to that cousin, there wasn’t a sound (nor dry eyes) in a room filled with experienced, professional, been-there-done-that, card-carrying adults.

I have, of course, altered the details of this not-quite true but truthful tale. Does it matter if the patient was male or female, nine or eleven years old, or if the gift was fifty bucks at Amazon? I don’t think so. And I also like to think that it really doesn’t matter that this was a kid.

Every day, around us, gestures of kindness and generosity are ignored by the fake and real news. Every day, my hospice colleagues—and I’ll bet in your world of co-workers and friends and strangers—express gratitude to another, share hope with another, and no one knows except for a few. Or just you.

Are there reasons to be cynical and fearful in this anguished world?

You bet there are reasons. People are dying when they are too young or have so much more to do. Their deaths crush us. Politicians deceive. Corporations cheat. Bullies win. Racism increases. Greed seduces. Too often, we feel helpless and hopeless, weary and wounded.

But then there are those quiet, stunning events that remind me about the preciousness of the world.

And so, for a moment in a meeting, I hear about a child whose age can be counted on the fingers of my hand, and whose first and best thoughts are about helping others.

(Hospice vigorously protects a patient’s privacy. I’ll take care with how I share my experiences. Any names used are fictitious. Events are combined and/or summarized.)

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