“Be grateful for what you have”. As parents it is a common phrase that we have often used with our children at the dinner table, when there is an argument over toys, or when they aren’t too impressed with the nightly accommodations (tent, cabin, hostel, etc.). However, it wasn’t until the last year that the younger Fives really started to understand just how grateful they should be for their extremely fortunate circumstances. As part of home school the younger Fives have been reading through the book A Life Like Mine: How children live around the world. This over-sized book, packed with wonderful photographs, is published by DK in association with UNICEF. The book explains the basic needs of every child (water, food, shelter, healthcare, safety) and shows how these needs are being met, or in many circumstances not being met, all over the world. The kids love how A Life Like Mine clearly illustrates concepts such as daily water use and they really enjoy the in depth profiles of children from all over the world. On a recent morning of home school the kids were blown away to discover that while they eat 3 meals a day (with several snacks mixed in), many children only eat once per day if at all. They have also come to appreciate having running water in our house now that they have read about the many children who have to walk great distances just to bring home a bucket of water. This is as much water as someone in our family might accidentally waste when leaving the faucet running while brushing their teeth. It has been great to see the kids gain a greater understanding about the lives of other children from all over the world. Through reading A Life Like Mine and through donating to charities they have become very interested in some of the current conflicts affecting children. They are learning about what happens to children refugees of war in Syria and beginning to understand the impact that natural disasters like that in the Philippines can have on the lives of children. In addition as a family we have recently started volunteering for a local organization in La Paz that provides breakfast for school students who would normally go without (we will post more on this in the coming month).
While they feel really good about helping other children whenever possible, they have also had moments of frustration as they learn about the poor living conditions of kids their own age. It is hard for them to understand why these situations can’t be fixed and there are times when they have felt a bit helpless as to how they can really make a difference. In these cases it can be hard for us as parents to offer them comfort as we often feel the same way. However, the lesson that we can impress on them is that we should always do what we can do to help others and always remember to be grateful for the life that we have been given. Being able to travel, learn, and play together as a family is such an amazing gift that we are grateful for each and every day.