Back in March, a train from Ukraine arrived in Poland. Inside were dozens of tired, hungry children fleeing the war. I have no idea what the kids expected to see when they arrived at the station, but the sight that greeted them was certainly not it.
Standing there, on the platform, was a Tyrannosaurus rex.
A T-rex with lollipops.
This is exactly the sight that hundreds of kids have seen since arriving as refugees in Poland. A dinosaur offering lollipops, chocolates, and coloring books to kids who have spent weeks being hungry, tired, and scared. Some of the kids try to grab as much as they can before running away – it’s a T-rex, after all. Others approach the dinosaur warily, asking permission before taking any of the sweets. But most kids smile and laugh and hug the T-rex, because let’s be honest – who wouldn’t want to hug a friendly dinosaur?
Of course, it’s not really a dinosaur they’re hugging. It’s a man in a costume. More than that, it’s a dad.
The father in question is Tomasz Grzywiński of Poland. Like most of us, he was heartbroken by the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Unlike most of us, his proximity to the war meant he could personally do something about it. But rather than just donating money, or giving out supplies, Tomasz decided to do both – while giving out smiles, too.
“The kids need smiles,” Grzywiński explained. “They stay at the train station for two days sleeping on the floor. It’s devastating.”1
So, he did what all the best dads do: Jump into help, while also bringing a little silliness along the way. Together with his 7-year-old, Tomasz made hundreds of sandwiches, bought $100 worth of candy, donned a dinosaur costume, and headed down to the train station. And while doling out sweets and smiles, he did what so many dads do with their kids:
Blink tears from his eyes while pretending not to.
“It was deeply touching,” Grzywiński told a journalist. “I seriously started to cry for 10 minutes because of what I saw there, but luckily, I’m in the costume and they don’t see that.”1
Soon after a video of the candy-giving dinosaur went viral, other people in costumes – many of them dads – began showing up at other train stations. Says Grzywiński:
“I hope 100 dinos are going to go from every city and do it…because the whole point is to get kids to smile.”
When I came across this story, I immediately thought of the upcoming Father’s Day. Why? Because it reminded me of something that makes many dads so special. The ability to put a smile on their child’s face.
No two dads are alike, of course. Each brings different skills and talents, philosophies and mindsets to the task of parenting. But when I think of my own dad, or listen to other people talk about theirs, the same thing comes up time and time again. How our dads make us laugh. How we always turn to our dad when times are tough and we need a boost. How dad could turn the most boring road trip or tedious task into a fun and silly adventure.
Whether it’s telling ridiculous jokes or transforming a blanket into a superhero’s cape; building a treehouse or teaching us how to drive; relating a preposterous “big fish” story that somehow teaches us an important lesson or just saying the right word at the right time to lift our spirits, dads seem imbued with the ability to make life magical. The ability to make life fun. The ability to make life silly. The ability to make us smile.
When you come right down to it, that’s what kids need, isn’t it? As much as food and water, safety and shelter, education and exercise. Like Tomasz Grzywiński, the candy-giving dino-dad of Poland says: Kids need smiles.
So, thanks, dads, for all the smiles you’ve given us over the years. And on behalf of everyone at CMR Financial Advisors, Inc, I’d like to wish you a happy Father’s Day!
Cliff M. Robello CFP® ChFC
1 “The kids need smiles: Man suits up in dinosaur costume for Ukrainian children at Poland train station,” CBS News, https://www.cbsnews.com/news/tomasz-grzywinski-dinosaur-costume-refugee-children-ukraine-war/.