Yesterday morning, my sister sent me a text from Maryssa who had cried for four hours Tuesday after her former friend Riley sent her baby photos and ha ha remarks about The Pawning Planners and our mission to help people that had nowhere to turn.  

Riley had spent a lot of time at my sister’s home playing with the twins and eating with their family.  What started the entire “frenemy episode” was Riley asking to come over while the twins were with us at Planet Fitness.  Because Riley couldn’t come over like she wanted to and the twins weren’t home, she hit the Internet googling the twins and came up with some “blackmail pics” of them as infants and toddlers that she forwarded to Maryssa and promised to show around school since she could NOT come over.  Riley isn’t used to not getting her way and decided to let everyone know about it.

My sister and I sat in the parking lot going through videos of the twins when they were 2 years old dancing to music or playing the guitar.  

Cindy cried as she did this because we didn’t have the videos backed up to anything and Maryssa wanted us to delete them rather than set them to private.  My sister has taken daily photos of the twins since they were born.  She has photos and videos on YouTube and FB that document their lives and she loves to watch them.  Thanks to a bully, Maryssa, my sister and I all spent several hours hiding the photos & videos that Riley was threatening to show everyone at school.  

The twins have had a happy and wonderful life and worrying about something my sister or I had posted should never have been an issue but, Riley couldn’t find anything else to use as a weapon and “settled” on cute photos and videos of them in their younger years.

We told Maryssa to blow it off and we’re both pretty upset that this kid who pretended to be nice would turn on a dime simply because she couldn’t come over.  After this mess, she will never be welcome again!

Yesterday Riley had passed around photos and video of our Little Pawners to Maryssa & Makenna’s classmates to poke fun at their involvement with the 700 families we’ve helped because when the twins entered their class at Austin Elementary yesterday, the class began chanting “Pawning Planners, Pawning Planners, Pawning Planners!” Makenna shrugged it off but Maryssa became angry and embarassed.  Why?  Makenna hadn’t seen the texts of baby photos & videos that Riley had promised to “pass around” by text to Maryssa.  Makenna had very little to do with Riley on the many play dates spent at Cindy’s house because she knew what we didn’t.  Riley pretended to be sweet but she had a darker side. 

Why are some kids mean?  Who knows maybe they have mean or overindulgent parents?  Riley is being raised by her grandmother and has spent a lot of time in the office for hitting, kicking and calling other 6th graders names.  We were unaware of this “trouble.”  

 Makenna could care less about being made fun of and is on the honor roll with straight A grades, Maryssa is far more social and worries about being popular.  Both of the GrandTwins have spent their lives helping others but children like Riley don’t and perhaps never will understand compassion.  Why? Because compassion isn’t taught at schools where bullying often starts at a young age.  I’m often amazed at the meanness going on in an elementary school but shouldn’t be.  

Cindy and I were the kids no one wanted to hang around with.  Homemade clothes, hair cuts from a relative and numerous other things we couldn’t control made us unpopular.

Twins are often targets simply because they are viewed as being different.  Why?  Your guess is as good as mine but it’s something my twin and I had to survive ourselves.  The “luck of being a twin is having a built in best friend.”  You will need that best friend to survive your school years and later, thank your lucky stars for having a twin to muddle through school.  

I’m certain that Cindy and I would have never made it without a buddy.  We didn’t have a mother and we walked to school everyday which gave bullies plenty of time along the way to throw rocks at us or call us names.  We have never let our children or grandchildren walk to school or ride the bus because we would worry and fret over the “popular” kids picking on them.  These kids are mean and spiteful at schools nowadays just as much as they were 40 years ago.

We’ve taught our adult children and grandchildren to stay away from cruel classmates but wonder how effective our suggestions actually are.  Makenna hates to miss school because she worries about missed schoolwork and her grades but Maryssa could miss school everyday and never look back! She hates school. 

We’ve taught our children and grandchildren to use good manners in life and in school.  Yes sir, yes ma’am, please, thank you and excuse me are ingrained in them but today’s youth wouldn’t know good manners if someone showed them a picture.  Why?  Because manners these days are unheard of unless you are dealing with a military member of family of someone in the military.  

Child rearing has become a “fly by the seat of your pants” endeavor with today’s parents who “don’t believe in saying no” or teaching their children to share with others.  Where are the boundaries of today’s children who are celebrated by their parents win, lose or draw?  Life lessons aren’t about never winning or even trying and being put on a pedestal for participating.  A sense of entitlement isn’t going to get you or your children too far in life.

We are creating princesses if we don’t teach children kindness courtesy and respect who will “down the road” become divas. Flips or Flops-these children will most likely take everything they’ve learned and continue the circle as adults.  

We have taught our children and grandchildren to put forth 150% if they want to do something we stand behind them but we expect them to apply themselves not give it a halfhearted effort.  Get in or out or out of the way but whatever you do-do it with passion.  Nothing worth having is easy to get-hard work pays off.  

Our children and grandchildren are well mannered, considerate, thoughtful and compassionate because we took the time to teach them these values ourselves.  They have volunteered and learned the value of giving back, they have seen true hardship at many appraisal appointments where the family we were helping had a dirt floor or no heat or air.  They have seen abject poverty firsthand and realized they have a comfortable life and people who love them.  They have nice clothes and know what a vacation is and understand the value of a dollar along with knowing many of the families we help may never have a vacation.  

We have taught them compassion and empathy although some of you may think going into a house with no floor or electricity would be the last thing on your list, the people booking through The Pawning Planners have no money so don’t be shocked they aren’t living in a mansion.  

Appraisal Appointments are eye openers for us too but when we leave, we realize that poverty isn’t something anyone chooses.  Being poor isn’t popular but many families we’ve helped didn’t have an option.  Education or hard luck put them in a position to struggle and hard work pays their bills but leaves little else left over.  

Pawning Planners clients are far more poverty stricken than Texas Twins Events clients.  For many, it’s the only life they have ever known.  Hardship and Hard Times define them and kindness is as surprising to them as winning the lottery.  They are accustomed to being looked down upon.  My family and I changed all of that for them and if they have nothing of value to barter with-we sponsor their event ourselves.

As children, my sister and I were drug to church, volunteer efforts, funerals, and social functions as children on a regular basis.  By 6 years old, my sister and I washed windows and dishes and had daily chores to keep us out of trouble.  

We took food to other families who were poorer than we were and were told we were lucky to have a roof over our heads.  Sure other kids were watching tv or playing but we learned life lessons and a strong work ethic that stayed with us all of these years later.  We have never had the time idle hands or idle minds.

Our father and grandparents never worried about the hell we went through going to or at or from school.  They never asked and we never told them because everyone was too busy surviving and working on earning money to care about bullyies throwing rocks at us or calling us names because we were ugly or different or wore the same clothes all of the time.

Once a dirt clog with glass cut my face open from a boy and I knew not to go home crying.  We were told over and over to figure it out and we did. We had no one interested in how our day went.  We have raised our children and grandchildren differently because we care and because we know firsthand about bullying.  It’s something we will never forget.  I’m reminded every morning by the scar under my eye from that dirt clog with a piece of broken glass in it.

By 7th grade with my dyslexic mind and chronic stutter, I learned to look at bullying backward and realized the only way to defend myself was to fight back.  By 8th grade I was no longer so fearful of going to school that I lived with ulcers.  My sister and I had survived school and the torment that went with it.  We became the people we had never met by being kind to other kids who were being bullied and although we never started a fight-we knew how to finish one.  It was a game changer to not cry for them to stop hitting or hurting us while covering our faces and start hitting back.  My sister and I are survivors of many things but we learned to survive due to bullying.

Two years ago, we sent the GrandTwins to self defense with Rudy Smedley when we realized that someone was pulling their hair or hitting them to give them the knowledge of defending themselves that we had to figure out on our own.

Anyone who has ever been bullied knows the pain, the doubt and the humiliation that goes along with it. My husband dropped out of school because he was short and tormented about it.  He couldn’t help being short but mean kids don’t care.

We didn’t call in sick to work or whine about a cold-we went to work because we had to. Our children haven’t been raised to expect anything without working for it because my sister nor I believe that spoiling children will make them thriving adults.  If you want something badly enough-be willing to work for it is our motto.

 Cindy advised Maryssa that we wouldn’t pick her up early because we both knew that picking up Maryssa was “running away” from the problem.  By the time we arrived for lunch with the twins, Maryssa had solved the problem by explaining that The Pawning Planners is a family business that helps people.  

The name isn’t funny because it explains what we do.  She also told Riley that getting out and helping people like our family does will open your eyes about how others live.  Experiencing the delight of delivering food or groceries to a struggling family that weren’t expecting any help will teach you that others aren’t as lucky as you.  Our children and grandchildren have delivered food, clothing, toys and more alongside us to struggling families all of their lives.  They know hopelessness in the eyes of another because they’ve seen it and changed things for strangers.

Oh,  I know you tell your kids and grandkids you’ve walked five miles to school but have you taught them real life lessons?  Do they understand the gift of giving ?  If you aren’t going to teach them-who will?

The past nearly 7 years with our children and grandchildren have been spent giving strangers an event they could never afford without our help.  

The joy of a wedding, a birthday party, a family reunion and more have these families something the  never thought they would have an opportunity to share because we are the people we’ve never met.  We don’t live our lives for ourselves- we live our lives helping others and teaching our children and grandchildren the value of kindness through not only our businesses but also by example.

Maryssa “opened” Riley’s eyes to what we actually do and the people we help by explaining the many families she’s had photos taken with.   Maryssa is 12 years old but she’s wise and compassionate.  

What is compassion?  Sympathetic pity or concern for the suffering or misfortune of others.  Why don’t most children and adults know or understand the meaning? 

Because many parents and grandparents are raising narcisstic children and grandchildren who are so self centered in this “me generation” that considering anyone other than themselves has never occured to them.  If you don’t teach your children compassion today-they will never feel empathy tomorrow.

Why are our adult children and grandchildren compassionate?  Because we’ve taught them to be!  How?  Taking them with us to volunteer at soup kitchens and food pantries at a very young age along with donating their clothing to less fortunate children at school or funding field trips for children who have no money for the luxury of a field trip or nice clothing. 

 We live in a world of spoiled adults and children.  Why do you think there are so many Bridezillas or critics of everyone wherever we turn?  Because they were raised that way.  Thinking only of themselves, this “me first” or “I want” generation has never gone without in order to benefit someone else.  Sacrifice builds character!  Spoiling your children with self indulgence and criticism won’t help them or you.  After all, one day parents will be older and looking forward to a visit from a spoiled child who became a selfish adult who never had time for a visit to the parents who sacrificed to raise them.  

Life is a circle- unless you break that circle, you will raise your children the same way you were raised.  In our case, we decided to do everything differently.  Why?  Because we were the poor kids-we have been on the other side of that fence!  We couldn’t help being poor but were bullied because of it.

When children at Austin Elementary had no money for mums, our grandkids helped us make them and handed them out.  When several children wanted a tutu but couldn’t afford to buy their own, our grandchildren handed their own prized possessions out.  It was their idea not ours.  

We’ve raised them to put themselves in someone else’s shoes.  Why?  Because we won’t be here forever guiding them to do the right thing for others.  We’ve built a foundation of compassion and created these young adults to be kinder than those who poke fun at the virtue of helping a stranger. 

 By being an active part of Texas Twins Events & The Pawning Planners, our children and grandchildren have seen firsthand how kindness can create a chain of other acts of generosity for a stranger.  Why?  Because the families we help never expected any help.  Committing to their dream event gives them hope and in turn they realize the benefit of helping a stranger and often become volunteers themselves.

Maybe Riley will one day realize the benefit of kindness?  We can hope.  Makenna prefers to keep her nose in a book and knows she’s a Pawning Planner.  Maryssa doesn’t love her baby photos being passed around but who does?  Explaining how our businesses help others isn’t easy for me but sometimes a 12 year “nails it!”

Wendy M Wortham