My little brother, Max, saw the ad in the paper. “What is a donation?” he asked as he turned the paper into a miniature tent. “It’s kind of like a present that helps someone,” I explained. “Like when Mom gives cans of soup to the food pantry.”
“The new shelter wants donations. It needs clothes and toys.”
“Why don’t you donate your stuffed animals?” I teased. “They’re taking over our bedroom.”
“Maybe I will,” he said, collapsing his tent and giving me a big grin. Then he jumped up and ran off with the newspaper to show Mom. She thought it would be a wonderful idea if everyone in the family found some things to give to the homeless shelter. The next day, she brought home a big empty box from work, and we started to fill it. Max began asking me so many questions that I wondered how he managed to breathe.
“Do you think there’s a kid at the shelter who would like a toy lion?” Max dug through his mountain of animals. “Or do you think the kid would like a zebra better?”
“Either one would be fine,” I said as I sorted through my closet. I had some puzzles I never put together anymore, and all the pieces were still there. I put them in my pile for the box.
“Maybe there’s a kid who collects teddy bears, like me,” Max thought aloud. “Maybe I should give a teddy bear.”
“That sounds like a good idea, too,” I said, adding a game to my pile.
“But everyone always gets bears,” Max decided. He took a fluffy white dog off his bed. “Do you think that someone would like sleeping with my dog? He’s soft, like a big furry pillow.”
“Sure, Max,” I agreed. “Do you want to put him into the box?”
Max stared at the dog for a minute. “No,” he finally said. “Not this dog.” He plopped the dog back on his bed and started sorting through his toys again.
I smiled to myself, thinking, Max likes the idea of donating a toy, but he doesn’t really want to give any of his stuffed animals away.
“What about some books?” I suggested. “You have lots of them that you’ve already read a zillion times.”
Max got up and pulled some books from his bottom shelf. He opened one and slowly looked at the pictures. Then he put it back. “No,” he said, “I don’t want to give someone a book.”
“I’m sure you’ll find something,” I said, picking up my pile. But I wondered if Max would part with anything. He was a real collector.
That night, Max went through his toys over and over. He’d put something into the box, and then he’d take it out again. Finally he asked Mom if she could wait a day for his donation. I didn’t think another day would help Max decide any more easily, but Mom just smiled and said, “That’s fine.”
The next morning, Max got up early and ate breakfast.
“Did you forget it’s Saturday?” I asked as he pulled on a jacket. “There’s no school today.”
“I know,” he said with a mysterious smile. He didn’t let my teasing bother him one bit. “Mom’s taking me on an errand.”
“Don’t forget to put your donation into the box today,” I reminded him.
“I’ll do that later.”
I finished my breakfast and headed out to play a game of basketball with my friends. When I came home for lunch, Max was waiting for me.
“Come and see my donation,” he said, tugging at my hand the second I stepped through the front door.
“Just a minute,” I said as he pulled hard. “If you stretch my arm much more, I’ll be able to tie my shoes without bending over.”
“Please,” he begged.
“OK, I’m coming.” I wondered what toy Max had finally decided to part with.
He pulled me down the hall and into the kitchen. I didn’t have to look into the box to see his donation, because it stuck out of the top. It was an enormous tiger with velvet orange fur. I’d never seen such a humongous stuffed animal before. “Where did that come from?” I asked.
“I bought it with some money I had saved up. I wanted to put something in the box that I liked best of all, but none of my toys seemed special enough. Don’t you think someone is going to really like it?”
“Yes, I sure do!” In that short moment, Max taught me a lot about giving. Even though he didn’t know the person who would receive his gift, and even though he didn’t have such an amazing big tiger for himself, Max just cared about giving his best.
“Come on, Max, Old Buddy,” I said. “I think you can help me. I want to donate a few more things to that box myself. What do you think a seventh grader would like best of all?”