I have a story for you. This story is one shared with me by a co-worker about her visit to a newly arrived refugee family.
Back in January, she had gone to meet a family that had just arrived the night before. During her visit, one of the children pulled out a toy: a small duck puppet. By the way the other children looked at the toy, it quickly became evident that this small duck was their only toy. Seven children, who ranged in age from two to fourteen, owned a single toy.
As she played with the younger kids and the puppet, their laughter and curious eyes touched her. A life spent in a refugee camp is rarely filled with happy memories and yet, even after forty hours of constant traveling and encountering strange and new things, they were happy. This one, little thing made them happy.
She then made it a priority to get the children more toys. She took four of the younger kids and headed to pick out toys that the wonderful people of First Christian Church had donated for children just like these. All of the children’s eyes doubled in size as three small Rubbermaid tubs were pulled out and they were advised to pick out two or three toys for themselves and for their toddler brother. They had never seen so many toys in one place before.
As they began to leave, the ten year old daughter abruptly stopped, and ran back to the woman who helped them get the toys and joyously said, “Mahatsanid, mahatsanid!” or “Thank you, thank you!” in her native language. Back in the van, the same daughter informed her in a little voice that these were the first toys, besides the duck puppet, she and her siblings had ever owned. She could see the delight in their eyes as they lovingly held their new toys.
I share this story now because it has helped me remember to the little things and to not get too wrapped up in life. My partner and I recently bought a new home and throughout the process he and I received a lot of advice on what we needed in the home (lots of bedrooms, new furniture, fancy appliances, etc.). After months of their advice, we started to get swept up with all the talk too. We started talking about needing new furniture and upgrading appliances though everything we have is perfectly fine. Luckily, we flashed back to reality (seeing the numbers on a mortgage loan can do that to you) and remembered that we didn’t need those things; we just wanted them. We had our little duck puppet—we had each other, our floppy dog, and a beautiful new home—that made us happy. The rest would have been extra.
Now there is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting things: the new pair of shoes for school, the tablet to play games on, the new couch that would look amazing in your new living room! But there comes a time when we get caught up, stop saying “we want” and start saying “we need”. And hopefully in those moments, you can remember the little duck puppet too. And if you want tips on managing the wants vs. the needs, check out these tips from the Center for Financial Resources.
Written by: Kristyne Walth, Volunteer Coordinator, Center for New Americans