Every year, North Clackamas Fire District #1 does a food drive where they drive through neighborhoods on a Saturday night, blaring sirens, horns and Christmas music, and collecting bags of food. Every previous year, I have turned off all the lights and pretended we are not home. Not to be uncharitable, just to prevent ear damage. This year, it seemed like a good opportunity to demonstrate giving to Nora, as all of our other charitable acts are unseen. Toddlers do not comprehend automatic payroll deductions. So, I grabbed a grocery bag and Nora and I started emptying the cabinets. I explained we were going to give some of our food to people who were hungry. Then I wrapped her in my coat and carried her outside where she handed the bag to a volunteer in a high visibility vest. Then the volunteer gave her a small candy cane. Her first candy cane ever.
Needless to say, the candy cane made a big impression. I didn’t realize how big until the following night. Nora said,
“The fire truck is coming.”
“It is?” I asked, not understanding what she was getting at.
“We need food,” she said. “Go get a bag.”
I dutifully went to the mudroom and grabbed a grocery bag. She scuttled into her bedroom and filled it with wooden food. She then marched to the door and wanted out. I walked her outside and pretended to hand the bag to an imaginary volunteer, but it didn’t quite feel like the right way to play the game. We went back inside and she immediately wanted out again. This was not a loop I was eager to repeat, so I told her to take her bag of food to the living room and wait for me; I’d bring the fire truck. I put on Ben’s big earflap hat and put my hands around a big imaginary steering wheel and headed for the living room making siren noises and shouting “Merry Christmas!” Nora handed me the bag of food. I started driving away and she stopped me and demanded a candy cane. Ahhh! Now the game makes a bit more sense! We spent the next forty-five minutes repeating this trade of fake food for an imaginary candy cane; eventually switching places so she was giving me candy canes, which she kept in her underwear, as she was not wearing pants.
The candy cane obsession continues, as this morning she asked for the pink letter “L” from the refrigerator and began licking it. I’m thinking this is how the charitible instinct is fostered; reinforce the personal benefit!