Lessons In Gratitude – Donating Stuffed Animals to Loving Hugs

I’m eternally grateful for the many lessons in gratitude that my parents gave me from an early age.  My earliest of such memories took place when I was just a bit older than Lucia is now, while visiting my mother’s Country, Medellín, Colombia.  I remember my mother taking me to a fruit stand to purchase a bunch of grapes,  for me.  A whole bundle to hold all by myself.  She then took me inside a local orphanage where I was quickly surrounded by children.  “Mira, la niña, mira la niña” (look at the little girl) they chanted.  I remember looking at a big girl who must have been around six years old.  She was holding a toddler, as another little boy gripped her leg.  I looked into my mother’s discerning eyes, took one grape and gave it to the big girl.  I’ll never forget what she did with that grape and the lasting impression it made on the little me:

The little girl took the grape and broke it in halfShe gave one half to the toddler cradled in her arms and the other half to the little boy beside her. 

Her gesture was eye opening to say the least.  I ended up giving  away all of  my grapes that morning.  An act difficult for the five-year-old me, but the beginning of an understanding.

My mother often placed me in these sort of situations.  She was never pushy or overbearing.  Yet seemed to master a gentle balance of teaching me real life lessons in gratitude, in an unassuming, generous manner.  A quality I hope to emulate – even half as graciously as she did.

As a kid, such lessons were never few and far between.  Service and recognition for what we truly have were a way of life under my parents roof.  There was always some sort of  project going on, a soup kitchen to visit, or a family whom my parents opened their doors for.

I am constantly working on planting seeds of gratitude in my own children.  I’m also making a commitment this summer to follow through on concrete plans.

We recently sent off a large box of new and nearly new stuffed animals to a great organization called Loving Hugs.  I sat down with Lucia and showed her videos of children with their “hugs”: stuffed animals sent to children in war zones, hospitals and orphanages.  Children who have been victims of poverty, sex trafficking or natural disasters.  In a room full of toys, I explained to my daughter that for these children, the toys we send would most likely be their only toy.  Going through stuffed animals was in no way easy for my Lucia but I began to see the wheels turning in her tiny head.  Whenever it was hard for her to part with a stuffed animal, she asked to see a photo or video of a child on the computer again.  Then the conversations began. Maybe cuddly bear would go to a little girl around the same age as her.  Maybe we should kiss him first, so that little girl can feel the love we tucked into his heart.

My Lucia was happy knowing that her animals would be loved and cared for by another child.  We kissed all the animals that we sent off and have been talking about the little arms around the world that will soon cuddle them.

A small gesture.  A beginning….

More information on loving hugs can be found here:

Shipping information can be found here:

I’m also looking for more suggestions of service learning projects that are appropriate for a four-and-a-half year old. Please feel free to chime in!