BY Melissa Gerstein
This past Sunday, 60 Minutes featured a piece on homeless kids. They covered the story from Seminole Florida where the homeless rate for families is astonishing. In a time where our country has an unemployment rate of 9% and more than 16 million children are living in poverty, I felt compelled to have our son watch with me and try to understand how truly blessed he is today. I am constantly challenged by the demands our son has on “stuff.” I understand these wants. Who wouldn’t be impressed and intrigued by all these incredible tech gadgets that surround us today. But all of these things are luxuries and not what most children have or need across America.
As I watched with my husband we both discussed if our almost ten year old should watch the segment and whether or not he could handle the content.
We hit the rewind button and asked him to come in and view with us. As he watched, I watched him. I paid very close attention to his face. I wanted to see if he comprehended not only the stories, but if he was moved and affected by what he was witnessing. He was emotional.
After he watched the children tell their stories of living in cars, fathers crying over the last orange to feed their families and kids discussing their fears with Scott Pelley, we talked about the homeless kids.
We spoke about how a lot of homeless people are parents like us and, for lots of reasons, why they fall under the addiction definition and struggle with substances like alcohol and drugs. We talked about the different ways people were trying their best to help those who were homeless to find shelter and housing, as well as how many organizations made hygiene kits for homeless parents and their children. We also touched upon how alcohol addiction can become a major problem in homeless people.
However, the most important thing that we talked about is being grateful and having gratitude. We told him that not everyone might have the privilege to get a roof. Just because we can easily buy a new house, for example in the best neighborhoods in Bend, Oregon (https://bernardrealestategroup.com/bend-or-best-neighborhoods/), it doesn’t mean that everyone can. Hence, he should be content with what he has, or what we have.
It was not a lengthy conversation, it didn’t have to be. He instantly felt grateful and remorseful for many issues we have been struggling with. I reassured him that he does not have to worry about ever being hungry or homeless but that we need to remember that there are other people in the world suffering, just even outside our front door.
The question now is, how long will these feelings of gratefulness last? Will he ask me in a week for a MacBook or an ipad again? Will he remember the stories of these kids and their lives living out of cars and washing up in gas stations before school? I hope so.
There is a balance to wanting and needing. I would like my children to appreciate everything they have and at the same time to want more. The desire to want is also important, but you also need to be content. Have I faulted him by being able to give him so many things in life? We always take time to help others and do community service but is that not enough? How do we teach our kids to appreciate everything they have in life? Do they need constant reminders such as this 60 Minutes piece? Or does this all change with maturity and age?
I re-visited the conversation with my son in the days that followed and he had new concerns and questions to discuss with me. He mentioned to me that other kids in his school had seen the program too. To me, that was success, to know that he was talking about it with his peers.