My oldest son was two years old when he received his first “big” gift: a Thomas the Train track set.
It had everything a two-year-old – or even a 22-year-old – could have wanted. Fifty-two wooden pieces. A bridge. A tunnel. A crane. Even a tall, fake waterfall. And it all could be assembled on a wooden play table that was just-his-size.
He would play with it during the morning, afternoon and night, pushing Thomas, Gordon and Henry around the track. Over. And over. And over.
Seven years later, though, that train set gets little attention from my oldest son, or even from his younger brother and sister. Instead, it resides in a cluttered side of our basement amidst other toys that my children have received over the years – toys that on most days also get neglected. To borrow a phrase from a classic Christmas cartoon, it’s our own “Island of Misfit Toys” – and they’re all looking for a loving home.
Those toys can be an eyesore, yes, but they also can be convicting.
Consider, for example, the items Samaritan’s Purse recommends packing in its Christmas shoeboxes that go to less-fortunate children in other countries. The list includes balls and dolls but also pens, pencils, socks, soap, toothpaste and toothbrushes. Toothbrushes! Meanwhile, I and countless other Americans watch 42-inch televisions and wonder if it’s time to upgrade to something much larger for our Christmas present.
Experts tells us the United States has 3.1 percent of the world’s children yet purchases 40 percent of its toys.  But we shouldn’t point fingers at our kids. They didn’t buy those toys.
Besides, we adults are quite good at collecting our own “toys.” Continue reading