Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Change Bandit

I often think that the old nursery rhyme "when he was good, he was very, very good and when he was bad, he was horrid," was written about a bipolar boy ages ago - long before they knew about diagnoses, meds, therapies and blogs. When Tommy does something bad, it doesn't surprise me, even though it happens less and less as he gets older, more mature and has more defenses under his belt. Yet, I do not know why I continue to be so surprised when he does something very very good. It stands to reason that the intensity of his good nature should balance, or match, the intensity of his bad nature. Still, the good things feel like Christmas morning each and every time, and I continue to be struck by just how sensitive and loving this boy, who has been capable of such anger and rage, can be.

And such was the case of the "Change Bandit". Each year UNM Children's Hospital does a radio-thon with a local station (100.3 The Peak) to raise funds for their annual appeal. As part of this fundraiser, the radio station asks people to become Change Bandits. If you sign up, they send you a money bag and you ask people to donate their spare change to the cause. I hadn't even realized Tommy was paying any attention to the radio, when he announced "I really want to do that!" So we logged into the station's website when we got home, and they sent him his Change Bandit kit. He got started right away, dumping out the various coin dishes around the house, looking under couch cushions, etc. I thought that might be the end of it, as he, along with other bipolar kids, have a tendency to get extremely excited about something and then drop it the next minute for something else. (This is a symptom of mania.)

But, much to the pleasure of his father and me, he persevered. He brought the change bag to school and made a presentation about his cause at community meeting. He stood outside the classroom door at drop-off and pick-up and asked parents for change. Then, much to my amazement, he got on his bike one day and rode to a neighborhood where the houses are quite close together and stopped at each and every one asking for money. Yet, I doubted he could really do it; I begged my husband to get in the car and go looking for him. I imagined him raging at a stranger who didn't give him any change, or losing his way back home. But, when he returned I found out that with each doorbell ring, he politely introduced himself and explained his mission. This, I thought, is something a boy his age, without issues, could well have trouble doing. And for every house that answered the door, he collected money.

Finally, the radio station sponsored a party for the Change Bandits at a local kids arcade/pizza buffet joint, and Tommy proudly turned his change bag in. As we listened to the radio this morning, he said "I helped those kids, that's good, right?" "Good? It's HUGE! You rock Tommy," I responded.

I found myself taking two lessons away from this Change Bandit experience. One, get your challenged kids involved and focused in a cause outside themselves. Help them see it through to the end. Everything is so much about them, in negative and positive ways, that working toward a third party goal seems quite therapeutic. And two, stop being so taken aback when Tommy shows the love, tenderness, generosity and independence that is very much a part of him. Expect and accept more of it.

For more information on donating to UNM Children's Hospital see: 100.3 The Peak - Donate Now

1 comment:

BePe Baby said...

Hi There,
I don't know how to contact you since I can't seem to find a spot for that but we own the website and would love to talk to you about purchasing the domain if you are no longer using it. Thanks!