This is going to be a little different than my usual content...
There is a period of time at the beginning of a child's life when they are pretty much oblivious to differing levels of wealth, privilege and opportunity. It is a nice time.
A few nights ago I took Mattias to his first NHL game. It was quite a big deal for both of us and quite an investment as tickets for the Canucks are not cheap. As we walked to GM Place through the streets of Vancouver's downtown core we were twice asked "Can you spare some change."
Scene One: Exiting a slightly gritty, urban 7-11 store after buying a few treats (to avoid paying $48 for them at the game) a "down on his luck" fellow opens the door for a man and his 6 year old son. The father drops a handful of coins in the man's outstretched cup.
"What did you give him?"
"Because he doesn't have very much money and we could spare a bit to help him."
"Why doesn't he?"
"I don't know. Some people aren't as lucky as we are. He probably doesn't have a job or much of a place to live."
Scene Two: A few blocks closer to the stadium, hand-in-hand, the man and his jersey-wearing son walk by a much rougher looking character who is seated on the ground. In front of him is a dirty hat that holds a lonely quarter.
The father and son walk by without responding.
"Why didn't you give him anything?"
"You can't help everyone and I didn't like the way he asked."
"But he REALLY didn't have any money."
"That's true.... maybe we should have... and it would be great if you could give something to everyone but you can't."
"Because then we'd have none."
I sent out an e-mail accompanying the St.Patrick's Day 5km post on my blog to a bunch of friends and families here in West Vancouver. It would be great if some of the kids' classmates came along to run/jog/walk with them.
We got many replies: Love to but we are in Cabo. Sounds great, we'll be in Hawaii. Awesome idea - we'll be up at Whistler.
It's true that the run is on the middle weekend of Spring Break and 50% of West Vancouver goes to Mexico/Hawaii and 49% goes to Whistler over Spring Break. The last 1% apparently consists almost entirely of the Jones family (currently numbering 5).
"I want to go away for Spring Break."
"But we were in Hawaii at Christmas and we are going to go away again in June."
"But I want to go away for Spring Break."
"It costs a lot to go away and we go on lots of trips already. This time we are staying home."
"All of my friends are going though..."
"Well, when we go away they'll all be staying here."
As a father it is hard not to want to give your family everything. All the opportunities and experiences you can... The temptation to "keep up" came over me for a moment. Right up until I realized how absurd it was.
In Mattias' case it has taken about 6.5 years to realize that there are some big differences in the way people live. Some open doors for a few pennies, others have indoor pools and luxurious holidays every two months. Aia, our 4 year old, hasn't stopped to give it a moment's thought as yet...
So he realizes it - but what does it mean to him? Our job is to make sure these kids respect people - no matter whether they live in a mansion or under a bridge - and to be thankful every day that they have the things they need. It is kind of easy to explain in words, but pretty hard to know if they really feel it.
Somehow we have to de-program a little mind that already wants to "keep up" and program it to remember the men, the hat, and the cup. Suggestions?