Earlier this week, my wife took our four children on a walk around the neighbourhood.
Andrew, our youngest child, is an adorable little kid. Unfortunately, he can also be... um... "strong-willed". In his defence, he's only two years old. Also, there's an excellent chance this particular character trait is genetic.
So when Andrew decided he didn't want to walk anymore, he lay down... in the middle of a road. My wife quickly asked him to get up, but he refused. So she had to pick him up and carry him home.
In our house, Popsicles are a form of currency, and you can earn one for exercising.
When the kids got home from their walk, they each asked for a Popsicle. But to punish Andrew for not listening to his Mama -- and putting himself in a dangerous situation as a result -- he wasn't allowed to have one.
As you can imagine, Andrew did not agree with this decision. And like many two-year-olds would, he expressed his displeasure with screaming and tears.
Soon after Andrew began crying, our oldest son, Aidan, asked for a second Popsicle.
"Not so fast," my wife told him. "You need to do some more exercise before you can have a second Popsicle."
Aidan was tired from his neighbourhood walk and didn't really want to do any more exercise. But he begrudgingly put on his shoes and began to walk casually around our backyard.
A very short while later, he popped his head inside and asked, "Mama, now can I have a Popsicle?"
"No, Aidan, you barely did anything! Go get some real exercise if you want another Popsicle."
Frustrated, Aidan continued to walk around. And just a few minutes later, he once again came inside to ask for a second Popsicle.
My wife, who was already frustrated because Andrew hadn't yet stopped crying, quickly became annoyed. She replied, "No. You can't have another Popsicle for that."
At that point, Aidan became exasperated and asked, "What more do I have to do??"
And before my wife could say anything, he continued, "I'm just trying to earn another one so I can give it to Andrew."
Aidan was tired, and hot, and really didn't want to do any more exercise.
It would have been easy for him to stay on the couch, put on his headphones, and ignore his little brother's crying.
But Aidan knew he could make things better, and he decided to do that instead.
Sometimes making other people feel better takes some effort.
It's the best kind of effort, though.