Do our children have too much stuff?

It’s possible to own too much. A man with one watch always knows what time it is; a man with two watches is never quite sure.
– Lee Segall

An interesting thing happened the year of Michael’s seventh birthday. We didn’t want to exclude any of his friends, so we invited all of them. This was the year the Power Rangers were introduced, and we got every variation imaginable. Rather than appreciating the gifts, Michael was overwhelmed while the gifts were undervalued. They were left on the floor and easily broken.

The following year for his eighth birthday, coincidentally an Olympics year, I suggested to Michael that we have an Olympic theme. But in lieu of birthday gifts, we would suggest that the children coming to the party bring one or two dollars from their banks, and we would donate the money to the Special Olympics. Michael was eating his breakfast cereal, half listening to what I said. When it connected, he said, “Wait a minute – what did you say?” I repeated the idea and added, “Michael, tell us what you would like for your birthday, and Daddy and I will be happy to get it for you.” He couldn’t think of a single thing.

Invitations were sent out explaining our gift idea. Interestingly, as they called to RSVP, some moms were clearly uncomfortable. I suggested they do what made them comfortable, but also asked that they understand my objective. We placed a coffee container on the table decorated with the Special Olympics logo. With what was collected from the can, and with a matching fund from my employer, we sent a check for $200 to the Special Olympics. Michael received a beautiful thank-you letter from the organization, and I didn’t have to clean up any broken toys.

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