The Get-Well Box: Teach Your Child Kindness

by Julie Barrier

Kids are the best comforters! I was five when I was diagnosed with scarlet fever and pneumonia and imprisoned (I mean quarantined) at home for four months! My kindergarten buddies (and Jesus) helped me to survive.

Think of a friend or neighbor who is homebound, lonely or discouraged today. Teach your child to do what my little friends did for me. Here’s my story:

“Julie, what’s wrong?” “Where’d you go?” “I miss you!” In those tear-filled moments when I was so weak I could hardly speak, my buddies knew how to comfort me. They cried when I cried. No expectations. No questions. Just acceptance and consolation. I learned so much from their empathy and tenderness.

My fifth year of life was a nightmare.

TV was my sole source of companionship. My two-year-old sister Kathy was worthless in the friend department. All she knew how to do was cry and break all my toys. (She grew up to be loving and amazing, however!) My baby sitter, Mrs. Richardson, was nice enough. But all she did was make lunch and put us in time-out when we sassed her or trashed the living room.

I had high hopes for kindergarten.

Momma crossed off the sultry summer days on our refrigerator calendar anticipating my first day of school. As the grasshopper chirps subsided and chiggers ceased to chomp, the brisk fall air signaled my chance at freedom. Kindergarten!!!! I obtained the required list of school supplies: a box of pencils, a 24-pack of Crayolas, a lined tablet and a Barbie lunchbox with matching thermos. I was no longer a silly baby like my sister; I was almost grown-up, ready to tackle the bright shiny world of play-dough and paste.

September blew by quickly. I was getting my kindergarten sea legs. Little boys were evil, full of burps and boogers. Some of the girls were catty and mean. But I adored my teacher, and I loved recess and snacks. I devoured cookies and milk-a well-deserved prize after naptime. Mrs. Vineyard was beautiful, funny and cheery (before lunch).

October rolled around and I was a preschool pro. I knew my ABC’s, I could count to a thousand without blinking an eye, and I dunked my Oreos in milk while my teacher picked up blocks or snored in her seat after story time. After all, twenty five-year-old kids could squeeze the life out of any self-respecting grownup.

Then disaster struck. Just as we started tracing Halloween pumpkins and the fall air turned chilly, I got sick. My temperature soared and my head hurt. Mom rushed me to the doc. Dr. Pharo was my debonair pediatrician. No, he was not Egyptian royalty, but he was pretty cool. The good doctor had dark, wavy hair, a toothy grin and a starched white coat that stood up by itself. Although his office was chock-full of blocks, choo-choo trains and Highlights magazines, every kid knew the brutal truth: behind those brightly colored doors was a shot.

Dr. Pharo swaggered into the examining room as I shivered on the tissue-covered table in my underwear. “How’s my little trooper today?” he queried. Before I could answer, he gagged me with a tongue depressor and poked me vigorously in the tummy. “A few too many Vanilla Wafers, huh?” the doc smirked. I was full of Reese’s pieces and it was none of his business! “Let’s look in those little ears…” He poked and prodded. “Wow, you could grow flowers in that earwax.” I was incensed. Mom tried to stick soapy Q-tips in my ear holes occasionally, but to no avail. After the ear check, Dr. Pharo pressed his icy stethoscope to my chest. When I inhaled and coughed, his dapper demeanor immediately grew sober. The thermometer read 103 degrees. You could fry an egg on my forehead. When he lifted up my little cotton gown, my tummy was covered with red blotches. Mom assumed I had contracted a routine case of German Measles, but my measles were not German and my pox were not chicken. Dr. Pharo concluded that I had contracted a roaring case of Scarlet Fever and pneumonia. Our house was quarantined and I was confined to bed.

Dr. Pharo gave Mom a long list of prescriptions and recommended I receive a series of gammagobulin shots over the next three months. A yearly vaccine was one thing, but a series of shots? No way. My fate was sealed and my torture was imminent. I knew the drill. The Batman band-aids and green lollipops didn’t make everything better. A shot was a shot. I had a drawer full of lollipops and tootsie rolls and I would trade them all in for one less inoculation.

As the fall turned into winter, my condition worsened. I was really, really, really sick. My mom stayed home from work to swath my forehead with cold washcloths and to rock me as I sobbed. At night, she clutched me to her chest while I gasped for air, but then she dropped off to sleep. I lay awake listening to jazz on the radio, trying to make my heaving chest match the slow, undulating rhythm of the music. When I visited the doctor in the weeks to follow, he would shake his head and give me another shot in the bottom. At that point, I was too ill to care.

My friends couldn’t visit me because our house was off limits, and I dreaded the lonely nights of wheezing and coughing. My annoying little sister stayed at Grandma’s to avoid “the plague,” and Mrs. Richardson, my nanny, also kept her distance as much as possible. Weeks turned into months. I coughed through Christmas, I whined through January, and by February I had given up hope of returning to Mrs. Vineyard’s class.

Had God forgotten me? I couldn’t even go outside and smell the fresh air. I was a prisoner in my own house. Chutes and Ladders without a playmate is just Chutes. Shoot! I’ll bet my kindergarten buddies didn’t even remember that I existed. The doc said I was improving and might be able to return to kindergarten in March. But four more weeks at home seemed like an eternity. I had been sentenced to solitary confinement by this evil disease. I begged for a puppy, but mom said that furry creatures might make me wheeze.

On a particularly frosty, gloomy winter morning, I sat in my little bedroom rocker gazing at pictures of Hansel and Gretel that I had seen five hundred times. Although I couldn’t read, I knew the story by heart and determined I’d plan a bold escape from my bedroom dungeon and leave a graham cracker-crumb trail on the sidewalk in case I needed to find my way home. At least running away would let me breathe the outside air for just a little while.

Just before I made my break, I heard a knock at the front door. It didn’t sound like a grown-up knock, but a little kid’s rap-tap-tap. My heart pounded with excitement! Who was at the door? Was my little sis coming home? Did Donnie Scott from next door learn that I was soon to be germ-free? I didn’t care. I just wanted to see a friendly face from the outside world.

I peered out of the frosty window and couldn’t believe my eyes. Tommy, the toughest kid in my class, smiled and presented me with a box-an enormous beautiful cardboard box covered with construction paper hearts and doilies. He handed me the present, blushed, waved and ran toward the pick-up truck sputtering in the driveway.

What treasure would I find? I lifted the lid and gasped at its contents-a veritable treasure trove of handmade cards, candy and an unopened box of Hershey’s kisses. The large letter on the top was from Mrs. Vineyard. “Dear Julie,” she wrote, “we are so sorry you have been sick. Our bunny class is not the same without you. Please come back to us soon!” My heart leapt with joy. I had been missed! Card after card had messages like “Be well” or “Come back” scrawled in red crayon. The girl’s cards were painstakingly neat. The boy’s notes were rattier, but they still managed to say something kind like “Stop sniffing-start living” or “Get well, Stupid.”

I never felt so valued. It didn’t matter that my teacher had probably threatened them within an inch of their lives if they didn’t complete the assignment. I could care less if the mean boys teased me when I returned. God, in His own way, had taken time to show His love for me through a few scrawny, hyperactive five-year-olds.

There is a “someone” in your life who is suffering. You can be “Jesus” to them today!

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-5
Here are a few activities to teach your children kindness and compassion:

1.    Make a homemade card with your child for an elderly neighbor. Write a prayer for them as well.

2.    “Carol” your neighbors by singing Jesus songs on their porch.

3.    Fill a box with practical items like soap, paper goods (if you have them!) and add some homemade cookies. (Be sure hands are washed and the items are disinfected).

4.    Contact a sick family member or neighbor via FaceTime, Skype, or other online ways to connect.

5.    Help your kids to take photos and text them to encourage someone.

6.    Make a prayer list with your kids to use when you say bedtime prayers together.

7.    Help your child write thank-you cards to special people in their lives.

8.    Take time to talk to family (especially grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins). frequently. Don’t just text. Call them. They need to hear your child’s voice.

9.     Collect canned goods and take them to a food bank.

10.   Tell your child to say “thank you” to doctors, nurses, firemen and policemen who serve us during this difficult time. (at an acceptable distance, of course!)

11.   Read stories Jesus taught about helping others, like the Good Samaritan.

‘Master, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you, thirsty and give you a drink? And when did we ever see you sick or in prison and come to you?’ Then the King will say, ‘I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me.’  Matthew 25:40 MSG

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