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It would be fair to say that my child is slightly sweets deprived. She thinks Lucky Charms is a finger food reserved only for her birthday party and is delighted when she is allotted a swirl of maple syrup on her old fashion oatmeal.

In the world of children, the commodity is often candy. And in this world, Ava would be impoverished.

When she was potty training I rewarded her with 1/7 of a candy corn each time she went to the bathroom. I actually cut pieces of candy corn into seven equal parts and doled them out individually. She was so excited each time to put that morsel of sugar to her lips.

While sugar treats are rare, she does get a sucker every Thursday when we go to the bank. And yes, going to the bank is a highlight of her week.

Recently we visited our local butcher. While I waited for the butcher to slice pork chops to the one and half inch width that Martha’s recipes demand, Ava was kissing their wooden pig, Albert. The butcher thought this was so adorable that he awarded her with a Tootsie Roll.

A pinkie-sized Tootsie Roll.

Ava wrapped her fingers around the candy and cried out in glee, “Mama, look, I got a big chocolate. Let’s put it in your purse and save it for later. Maybe after dinner we can all have some. Daddy can have some. Mama can have some. And Ava can have some.”

Her delight was not merely in the receiving of the gift or the sweet pleasure the gift would benefit for her, but the ability to share that gift with someone else.

Later that night, when Nate came home he brought her a treat from the office. It was a very, very small packet of SweetTarts in the shape of Sponge Bob or some sort of strange sea creature. She was delighted; two treats in one day.

“Oh, Mama, look!! There is one for Mama. One for Daddy. One for Ava. Maybe we can all have one after dinner.”

“Yes, Ava that would be nice.”

“Oh, Mama, I have an idea. Maybe we can share the other ones with my friends. Would that be nice, Mama?”

Sure enough, after our bellies were full of pork chops and apple-raisin chutney, Ava peeled open her packet of six raisin-sized SweetTarts and gave one to each of us. Then she carefully stored the remainder of her treat in her purse.

The next day as we were getting ready to visit her friends, Sammy and Anna, Ava asked if she could bring the candy to share with them. All through the morning, Ava kept telling Sammy and Anna that she had brought “CANDY!!!” for them to eat after lunch and weren’t they “so excited?”

Did I mention that they were the size of one shriveled up grape?

You can just imagine their surprise, when Ava removed the minuscule, previously opened packet from her purse and proceeded to distribute one tiny candy to each of them.

“Mmmm, isn’t it good guys?”

While her friends were a bit dumbfounded by the diminutive size of the promised prize, Ava was overjoyed with the experience of sharing something of great value to her with her friends.

I have often been mystified by people who out of their poverty give what little they have willingly and with great joy. I remember visiting an extremely poor orphanage in Mexico with my youth group. The children lived in cinder block dormitories and the cooks slept in shanties constructed with cardboard boxes. They depended daily on the mercy of God and charity of others to feed and care for the children who lived there.

We had come to paint their dining hall, and bring fresh supplies of toys and clothes. After working in the heat that is only present in the desert, a lavish banquet of Mexican specialties and fine foods was spread before us. The orphans and workers lined the walls as we were seated in front of their expensive food. They refused any food until we had finished and they insisted that we all have two helpings. I remember looking over at the children expecting to see resentment or envy that the rich Americans were eating their precious food before they had any. Instead, I saw joy.

The same joy that I see in Ava’s face when someone is enjoying the gift that she has given. Those children, like Ava, were delighted to give what was precious to them.

Last night, my parents were in town and after we had finished our dinner, my mom pulled out some peanut M&M’s much to the delight of Ava. Within moments there were only two left, and Ava politely asked her Mimi if she could have them. Mimi agreed.

Ava scooped them up and smiled down at her treats. Then before the candy coated shell had a moment to melt in her hand, Ava asked, “Daddy, do you want one? There’s only two left.” She handed him her prize and then turned to her grandpa, “Papa, do you want one? It’s the last one. Do you want it, Papa?” She gave her candy to her grandpa and then watched in delight as they ate them.

“Is it good? Do you like it? Isn’t it so yummy?” Her mouth moved up and down as if she was savoring it with them and in fact, she was.

Even though it is likely that several months will go by before Ava comes in contact with peanut M&M’s again, she was more excited to share and watch “the boys” enjoy the treat then relish it by herself.

As her mother, I am often occupied with how to train her and teach her, how to correct this behavior and encourage that behavior. Sometimes, I forget to rejoice in the good work that has already begun in her. So last night and again this afternoon I am pausing to enjoy that at the precious age of three, Ava understands the truth that is far better to give than receive. May she never forget it.

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