Kindness through the ages

Ellie with our “Angel” gifts in 2017

Having started doing “happy tasks” when Ellie was one year old, we’ve seen her involvement change dramatically over the past six years. It was exciting when she started coming up with ideas of her own. (One of her first was to “leave a penny to help the animals” at the zoo.) And it’s been fun seeing her ideas mature as she has.

Every year at Christmas, we “adopt” a child through the Salvation Army Angels program. (You can learn more about the program here.) We always pick a girl who’s the same age as Ellie, and we encourage Ellie to help us pick out presents she might like. This year, shopping for our girl—Raina—was the most fun it’s ever been. (And yes, after I narrowed down the options by gender and age, I definitely picked this girl because she shares the name of the main character in my next novel.)

We were given a list of things Raina likes and wants, so Ellie and I entered Meijer last Friday with our sights set on doll accessories. Having found multiple possibilities, Ellie spread all the choices out around her on the floor and proceeded to deliberate on which ones Raina would like best.

Watching Ellie give so much thought to gifts for someone else (gifts she would be happy to get herself) filled my heart with joy. I ended up spending more than I normally do, partly because it’s wonderful to imagine a girl who doesn’t have a lot being surprised and delighted on Christmas morning, but also because of how gratifying it was seeing Ellie’s excitement.

I don’t think good deeds need to be selfless; in fact, I think people are more likely to be kind if they get something in return. I love having fun with Ellie as we complete our happy tasks, and I hope the fact that she enjoys it instills in her a desire to continue giving back as she grows up.