A couple weeks ago, my 5 year old son decided he wanted some new toys. My wife, being the brilliant woman that she is, recognized a perfect opportunity to teach him that he had to earn what he wanted AND to get rid of some old toys at the same time. She told him that if he wanted some new toys, he had to sell some of his old ones that he doesn’t play with anymore.
He seemed rather amenable to the idea and spent a few hours looking over lego sets online with his mom and little sister before going through his toys and deciding which ones he would sell. Once that pile was chosen, he helped his mother list them on a yardsale site and waited. He showed more patience than I’ve ever witnessed before and waited for people to make offers and come and get toys. He earned a whole $20 off his old toys.
When I got home from work that afternoon, he rushed to the door waving his $20 bill and saying that we had to go to target. He was so proud of himself and, once my wife explained what had happened, so was I. It was a great parenting moment for my wife and I. He’d figured it out. He had to give up something old to get something new. He’d worked through the logic of it all and it had stuck. Yes!
So, naturally, we went to Target. I was more than happy to reward him for his efforts and take him to get his new lego set. His little 5 year old excitement was contagious as he rushed into the store and ran straight for the lego section in the back. I jogged to keep up with him, but I was happy to do it. He was so happy.
He ran right to the isle and, in less than a 10 seconds, found the exact set he wanted, grabbed it off the shelf, and brought it to me with a smile as wide as the Mississippi river on his face. It was infectious. My wife and daughter caught up to us at that moment and their grins at seeing his happiness were heartwarming.
Then I saw the price tag at the exact moments that my wife recognized what set he was holding.
With all the kindness in the world, my wife told him he didn’t have enough money for that particular set. He’d need to choose a different one.
His joy vanished in an instant. “But mommy,” he said, “this is the one I want. I sold my old toys and everything.” He started crying. My heart broke.
My wife turned to me and explained that he’d been looking at lego sets all day and how he’d always come back to that one.
I realized what had happened. While he’d gotten the overall idea of giving up his old toys for new ones, he hadn’t gotten the concept of value yet. He simply didn’t understand that he didn’t have enough money to get the set he wanted. He’d chosen a set and had given up his old toys, some of which were very special to him for a number of years, so he could get that set.
We ended up going home with that set. I made up the difference.
Over the next week or so it took to put together that set with him, I found myself pondering over that moment and realizing how often that happens in my life, even as an adult. There are dozens of times a day where I give my all in a specific endeavor and others make up the difference. In
writing, the stories I tell are my all, but without my beta readers, editors, and fans making up the difference, I wouldn’t be able to take home anything. I wouldn’t learn anything. As a parent, I give my all, but without the help of my amazing wife making up the difference, we wouldn’t have the wonderful children we have. So many people help make up the difference.
Looking at my son’s face as he played with the finished lego set made me realize just how important it is to help make up the difference in other people’s lives, and how much other people make up the difference in mine. I hope we can all be the difference that makes the difference in others’ lives.