by an Orange Parent

As I continue down this crazy journey called “parenting,” I keep discovering that it isn’t just about me. Case in point, this year for Christmas I wanted to come up with something neat that my eight-year old daughter and I could do together to let someone know they are loved.

But, I was kind of stumped. I mean, there are so many people in need all over the world and in the city, I didn’t know where to start. I didn’t know what kind of things I could take an eight-year-old girl to as well (the local shelter suggested kids be at least thirteen before volunteering). I basically was on the verge of doing nothing because there was so much to do, and I was feeling all of this pressure to do something “extraordinary” and come up with it on my own.

So, one day, my daughter and I were in the car headed in to the city when I say, “I‘ve been trying to think of something for you and me to do together this Christmas that would let someone else know how loved they are, but I can’t think of anything. Can you?”

At first, she was silent. So, I asked her, “I mean, can you think of anyone who might need to be loved on this Christmas? You know, so they know that they’re loved?” And just as I finished that sentence, I pulled up to the tollbooth we always go through. And my daughter, looking out her window and seeing the woman in the toll booth (who I wasn’t paying a lick of attention to), said, “What about these guys?”  To which I replied, “Who?” “These guys,” she said, pointing at all of the tollbooth operators.

And, in a moment I am not proud of, I said, “The tollbooth operators?” like my daughter had just suggested I run down the highway naked. But she calmly said, “Yeah, I mean. . .they’re all alone in those boxes. What if they have to be in there on Christmas Eve? We should do something for them and let them know we hope they have a Merry Christmas.” I responded with my own silence.

See, my daughter did something that I think I am constantly failing to do. Stop, look around, and see who is standing right next to me. She simply looked outside her window and saw a “neighbor” who might need some reminding that they are loved and remembered.

We don’t know anything about these tollbooth operators. They might not be in need of anything. . . but then again. . .they might be.

Upon my daughter’s recommendation, we are going to go buy all six toll booth operators a gift, and on Christmas Eve around 11pm, we are going to drive up and down the highway so she can wish each operator a Merry Christmas and, in her own words, “Remind them they are loved.” Just because. Who knows what that might do in their lives.

So, I learned two things. First, when it comes to teaching and raising my children, maybe I don’t have to do it all on my own. Maybe part of raising my children is simply listening to them and helping them work through some of their own ideas. And second, I learned that showing compassion doesn’t always have to be a huge and difficult thing. Sometimes showing compassion is as simple as looking out your window and doing something for the people right in front of you.

This Christmas take some time to find those people who you might otherwise ignore and let them know you value them. Just because.