I’m re-reading a book that is messing me up – in a good way. The book, titled 7 by Jen Hatmaker, explores the mutiny of excess in our lives and details the author’s attempts to refocus her intentions by making 7 big changes. After reading and discussing it with friends, I’m having a hard time living in my house. We have too much. So in a season where we are taught to make lists of things to be bought, we are in the process of purging. Don’t worry – there will still be Christmas and gifts for children in this house, but before there is, I would like them to have an awareness of what we do have, and what others need, and the gross inequality that exists between people around the world. So as we purge, we talk. About who those extra pair of tennis shoes might help. And how 4 people could sleep on pillows and extra comforters we don’t need. And how insane it is that we can easily fill 4 garbage bags full of clothing we simply don’t need. We can teach our children to read and write, but I think we can’t teach empathy. I do believe empathy can be developed and expressed when it is modeled. This isn’t always easy for us or for our children, but I know we must keep trying. So in this season of thanking and giving – we share an older post – on many ways we all can consider sharing the gift of giving (our extra stuff or our friendship) with our children – and celebrating the lesson it teaches us all. Enjoy!
Remember that old saying, “Tis better to give than to receive”? Well about this time every year, amongst all the gift wish lists and crazy shopping, I try to remind my children (and myself) of this life lesson. It’s not easy, nor am I always successful with my moral lesson, but I try! Below we listed some websites and organizations that we have donated to in the past. All of them are related to giving to other children. I think if we expect our kids to understand the importance of giving to their neighbor, we need to choose a charity or organization that serves children. Then it will be easier for your child to empathize with the child in need. So as you are finalizing your holiday budget, considering cutting a few corners so that you can include a donation to someone in need. Not only will you be teaching your child about charity, you will be reminding yourself too!
Project Night Night – A wonderful non profit organization that provides tote bags for you to stuff with a stuffed animal, blanket and book. The tote bags are then distributed to homeless and domestic violence shelters to children in need. Most of our children enjoy a story before bedtime and snuggle a “lovie” as they drift off into dreamland. How sad it is to think that some children are so quickly removed from their home and moved into shelters that they may not have time to grab any of their belongings. These night night packages hope to bring sweet dreams to all children in need. www.projectnightnight.org
World Vision – Their slogan is “Building a better world for children”…love it! World Vision offers many ways to support children in need and fight hunger around the world. You can sponsor a child, purchase animals, donate to help provide clean water, and many other donation opportunities. www.worldvision.org
Samartian’s Purse – Every year around the holidays Samaritan’s Purse sponsors “Operation Christmas Child”. By filling a shoebox with small toys and hygiene essentials, you could be giving a child around the world the only Christmas gift they will receive. To help your child better understand the impact of their gift, you can track your shoebox online to find out what country your shoebox is distributed and write a letter to the receiving child in the hopes of hearing back from them. www.samaritanspurse.org
Read to Me – A non profit that distributes care packages to underprivileged new moms in hospitals. Included in the care package is a new book, onesie, tote bag and a special note to mom explaining the importance of sharing the joy of books and reading with their newborn baby. You can make a monetary donation at www.readtomeco.org.
Nuru International: Founded by a WV native and a team of professionals who left high profile employment, Nuru is an innovative non-profit that sees the larger picture: extreme poverty feeds extreme terrorism. Nuru uses a grassroots approach to teach agriculture, leadership skills, education techniques, water and sanitation techniques, and health care techniques to area leaders to foster self-sustaining communities and ultimately ending poverty one community at a time. http://www.nuruinternational.org/
Berkeley County Back Pack Program (or something similar in your community): The Back Pack Program was implemented in order to meet the needs of children when food resources are not available. Their main food source is what they receive at school. This program provides children with healthy and easy to consume foods that can be take home on weekends.Recommended items: Juice boxes,small water bottles, fruit cups, applesauce cups, individual size cereal boxes, granola bars, cheese/peanut crackers, pop tarts, raisins & small microwavable meals. Food that can be easily opened and prepared by a small child. Donations can be coordinated through their Facebook site: BC Back Pack Program
Jessica Rocks for Timmy’s Fund: A non-profit that encourages creative fund raising for adults and kids to participate in — with all funds going to support families whose children are undergoing treatment for cancer. jessicarocks.org
WATTS: is a temporary thermal shelter in our area. Local churches and community volunteers help fund, staff, and supply shelter, food, and friendship to shelter guests for the coldest 16 weeks of the winter. Local children are planning on providing clean socks with cards of encouragement tucked inside and/or blessing bags with toiletries. Perhaps your area has (or needs) a place like WATTS that benefits our neighbors in need and our children (and ourselves) in need of sharing what we have been given.
Heifer International: Does your brother really need another sweater or gadget? Give him a goat! Purchasing animals for families around the globe gives them a way to make money for themselves – and helps us all take a step to end worldwide poverty. Children are blessed with the opportunity to see their parents gain independence and confidence. There are creative ways to gift friends or family with a donation of animals in their name! From stuffed animals to some goat cheese with a sweet card – your biological brother and your brother across the globe will appreciate the gift! http://www.heifer.org
Your Local School: The boy that sits next to your child in class may be wearing his sister’s jeans that don’t fit. Call your school’s guidance counselor and ask what current needs are. With your child, go through closets and choose things to share. Or, go shopping (with some of his/her money too!) and choose new items. I can’t think of a more profound way to teach empathy than to share what they have with those that they know. The needs are great in many communities.
There are so many ways to give. A shut in neighbor. A women’s shelter. A soup kitchen. Finding a place to teach our children to care for those around us is not the problem. Finding the time to do it and making it intentional is harder, but the lessons learned through hands on giving are greater than most things we try to teach and are certainly something to be thankful for.