Friday, November 20, 2015

Showing Children the Importance of Giving through Example

One of the most important parts of parenting for my husband and I is that we instill the value of helping the local community in our children. Not only that, but also those worldwide— giving to those that are in need, and reaching out to those that are hurting—in any shape or form. Children begin to observe at a young age, from what we say to what we do, to our actions and the way we react to certain situations. These behaviors will instill a certain mindset in our own children, and we hope to let them have the opportunity to take in something good out of this world that is too often surrounded by evil.

I love the holidays for this very reason. It not only brings people together, but it also opens up doors for those that are reaching out to help others in need. Although our children are still very little, and may not understand completely what their act of giving is going toward, it is still important to us to continue to exemplify these acts of kindness and to talk them through it as we go. We started a few traditions when our oldest was just a one year old, and with three kids now, we continue to do the same things during the holidays.

And that's what I love about the powerful message that Western Union is sending with their new Chain of Betters project. It’s an idea that empowers people with the opportunity to change the lives of others. As money moves around the world, and good deeds are carried out, together we can start to change lives in ways that are positive and extraordinary.

1. Donate Birthday Toys. Do you ever stop and think about how insane the amount of gifts that a child will receive throughout the year? From birthdays to Christmas gifts to being spoiled by their grand parents. When my daughter was turning 1, I knew that I didn't want her to always view her birthday as an opportunity for gifts, gifts, and more gifts. So, we asked that instead of our friends purchasing us gifts, that they instead bring a gift from the need list at a local hospital for children with cancer {you may choose any form of charity that suits you best}. You can provide the link on the birthday invitation, share some ideas of the needs that this hospital may have, or just ask for those to instead make a monetary donation to a specific charity that you may have in mind.  We allowed for our kids to continue to receive gifts from our family members, but anything given to us by friends was then donated.

2. Find a donation center for used items: How often do you go through your stuff in your home, and dig up piles and trash bags full of "stuff" that you no longer need. What do you do with them?  Many people I hear send their items off to goodwill {I used to do the same}, others have a garage sale, and many even just send it away on trash day. I often hear that people struggle with finding where to donate, and I have to tell you, it's simply a google search away. I typed in "where to donate" and then typed in the city, and I got an amazing amount of results. Since that first google search years ago, we drop off our stuff a couple times a year at the same "donation barn" at a local church nearby. They take everything from clothes, to household items. If you try to search and still don't find anything, you may always call around the churches and ask them if they accept donations {most do!}. Just remember, they will have access to those that are need more than we will.

3. Adopt a family during the holidays: This is another "google" search that lead us to a domestic violence organization which sets up a family tree donation opportunity. We get matched with a family, and then we purchase items on their need list: socks, shoes, clothes, hats, gloves, etc. And then also gifts for the children. We also "adopt" children through a children's bureau where they have over 500+ children in need for gifts for the holidays. I go crazy and just keep shopping until my trunk is full, because I honestly cannot imagine any child not opening a single gift during the holidays. Yet it still happens, year after year.

4. Volunteer your time at a local food bank: This is a great one for Thanksgiving, and I cannot wait until the kids are a little older so we can start helping out more in this area of need. You can also find a local food bank simply by searching on the Feeding America website with your zip code.

5. Purchase toys/winter gear together to donate: I always see little drives for winter gloves, hates, and coats wherever we go; from our local library to our church. Going shopping with the kids and letting them pick out these items and then taking them the next time we go somewhere really shows them that not everyone has the luxury of staying warm during the cold winter season, and how very lucky we are to have these simple items that we often take for granted.  The same goes with toys. My kids have gotten such a thrill in taking a large bag full of purchased toys to our fire station in our neighborhood for their annual toy drive.

6. Make "goody" bags for the homeless: This isn't necessarily a holiday tradition, as it is simply a year round act of kindness that I think is so very important. Often times people are steered away from giving money to the homeless due to the stigma surrounded by it, but I believe that every single person out there, no matter the circumstances, deserves our help without the judgement behind it. I don't know who needs my help more, or who deserves it more, and it's not for me to decide. If only 1/10 of the people we have given to actually needed it, then I know it was worth it. Trying to reach that 1/10 is what matters most. So if you aren't into giving money, buy paper bags, an assortment of items {cereal bars, apples, water, socks, etc} and fill it up in the bag. Have the kids help in the process, and leave them in your car for when you stop at those stoplights and someone is asking for your help.

7. Sponsor a child: there are so many organizations that may assist in this process, and make sure you really read up on them first, but we loved sponsoring a child from a different country and helping out financially with their needs. Although the kids do not physically see the money reaching the child, seeing the child's face on the fridge served as a daily reminder to them of children that are much further away from us and the reality of the struggles that they face.

One of the most powerful things that I heard from our pastor was that we are all rich. Even those that make minimum wage here are much better off than the majority of others around the world. We see that in our daily news. We hear about it through social media. And yet, too often, we come up with excuses of why we just cannot afford it this time around. I've been there. I've come up with excuses of why not this time. But I've always quickly learned that giving has never made me poor, made me lose anything important in my life, or put me in a bad situation. In fact, it's done the complete opposite.

Watch this video to learn about the Chain of Betters project.

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

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