The following is a guest blog from Denielle Berube RECE who teaches in the Before & After Jk/K program at Growing Together at St.Anne’s.
What had started with a seedling of an idea, collecting money for a family in need; had grown into a plan. Just a simple empty water bottle with a simple explanation. Even though it was simple, it was intentional. Though it was intentionally planned and executed, without the help of parents to nourish the plan it couldn’t have grown into such a beautiful experience.
When I brought the rolled up coins to a local bank the lady was kind and patient. I told her our plan with the money, how there was a little boy in our community who had fallen ill and was in need of the “best Christmas ever!!” Her eyes sparkled with Christmas magic, and she wished me luck as I lead the children through this Christmas journey.
I was aware of the task in front of me, I too have children and dread taking them shopping around this time of year. But this felt different. The children when involved. They knew why they were collecting money. They knew we were going to go shopping and the gifts weren’t going to be for them. The children were excited “YAY, we get to pretend to be Santa” ~ they got it!
So before we left our FDK classroom I held a team meeting. Reminding the children the purpose of our journey and how far we’ve come! I assured the children that mom and dad were buying them gifts for Christmas, and how this boy’s mom and dad had spent a lot of their money on getting him better. So when we go shopping the gifts we buy are going to be for this little boy. I also informed the children of my thoughts on spending some of this money on the parents. I gave the children my perspective as a mom, having my child be sick and how my heart would hurt. I suggested that we buy mom some cozy slippers and bubble bath. The children agreed and looked at me anxiously. Ok ok it’s time to go!
First stop was Ms. Mel’s office. She asked where we were going and the children replied “to go Christmas shopping for a little boy who’s sick.” They get it! My heart smiled big, I knew it was going to be amazing. I grabbed our wagon and started our train. While passing the Toddlers Ms. Denise asked how many I had, “Thirteen” I replied, thirteen. She then wished us luck and waved us off. Luckily Ms. Karen pre-packed us a pretty sweet snack, tiny potato doughnuts with bottles of water along with cheese and crackers. Thanks team GTFRC for nourishing us for this Christmas journey!
It wasn’t until we approached the store that I felt overwhelmed. The excitement was clearly there….I rounded them in. We spoke of the importance of being respectful in the store. Respectful of the space and the people around us. Yelling & running around would not be tolerated and I would have to “shut it down” if this happened. That was the one & ONLY time I had to speak firmly. We walked in & immediately hit the row that was divided in two by crates of “stuff” ~ this made me anxious a bit. An older lady assured me that all was fine, she was in no hurry. I took this opportunity to show the children what I meant when I said “respect for others.” Our line was reformed & off we went, with the elderly lady towing behind us….she too shared that magical Christmas smile that the lady at the bank had.
On our way to the back of the store I heard a little voice say “Ms. Denielle, some slippers for the mom.” I was handed a pair and then another…. I then held up one pair and we took a vote, 6. I held up the other pair, 6. Someone must have not been paying attention, we had a tie. So, I asked the elderly lady that was still behind us. She chose the Christmas red ones, so that’s what we went with.
When we hit the toy aisle everyone scattered *It’s ok, I got this* It’s a big aisle, but again it’s divided with the crates of toys; and your children are little so all I could see were their heads. I took the moment in & observed. Everyone stuck close. Everyone was safe. There were some alone, looking. Some in small groups of 1 or 2. One by one they brought me toys they thought this boy would like. Some in duplicates…. I brought them in “1, 2, 3 eyes on me” I waited patiently for them to focus on me, calling their name in a soft voice; while thanking the quick to respond. I was then given the opportunity to show the gifts to the group & we all decided if it was a must. The child was then able to sit with their chosen toy. We all had a giggle when two children had chosen the same toy, it was clearly a must! There was a moment when we had a big PAW Patrol art set & a few children with different smaller Paw Patrol art sets. I asked the children if we should get the big set or the two little ones. They choose the big one & respectfully put the others back.
The manager of the store approached us “Ms. Denielle, is this your group that you had called yesterday about? I didn’t even see you guys come in, I didn’t even hear you guys!!” She then looked at our children and announced how proud she was of their behavior in the store and thanked them with that sparkle in her eyes. I then looked at the children. Their smiles were big and their eyes were bright. It’s at this point I started to believe that this Christmas magic was contagious!
With toys in hand & our confidence high, we set out to find the momma some bubbles to sooth her heart. The train of 13 well behaved children got the eyes of everyone. The comfort of our toy corner was gone and we were close to the lineup of people at the till AND THE CANDY lol Yes they wondered a bit but the ones who were focused on the momma were quick to pick the perfect gift set, score! I then turn around to find the manager escorting us to an open till. Candy crises adverted.
The children all unloaded their toys on the till and found some magic with the automatic opening door. Just like an angel Ms. Laurie another RECE arrived & distracted the children with her pictures of the toys she bought for the little boy: as I watch our total rise. Fact of life moment! Time for another meeting! We spent too much, we needed to save for gas money for mom and dad! Trips to London Children’s Hospital is costly and this was important. Since Ms. Laurie already did some shopping we found out that he already had lots of art supplies and they already got him a remote-control car and lego! PERFECT! We still have money left for gas gift cards!
By the time we got back to our school I only had a few children left. I kissed their heads & thanked them for being so wonderful. They just went along doing what they do best, play. Like what we had just done was no big deal, like all they know is peace & love….
The spirit of Christmas is very real and is very apparent in young children. Their capability to be selfless for a boy they don’t even know. Their ability to regulate their excitement in a store of people and focus on the task at hand was honestly moving! I drove home with a smile on my face and tears rolling down my checks, did that just happen?
Ms. Denielle RECE, December 2017