With Thanksgiving just a day away, I thought this would be a good opportunity to reflect on the Thanks-GIVING challenge that kicked-off this month.
To be honest with you, we didn’t get very far on our plan to collect food in our neighborhood because the timing never worked out to print and distribute flyers, followed by a weekend that we had free to gather the food. I’ve also been hearing reports that the local food bank is overflowing with food specially picked for Thanksgiving dinners. So, my thinking is that once their shelves are bare again right after Thanksgiving, we’ll contribute to filling them up. And, rather than going door-to-door with a wagon to fill (which feels a bit like soliciting), I’m going to have my kids call our friends and family to ask if they have any food to contribute, and we’ll go pick it up from their houses (which feels a bit more like team work and leadership). So, the task has not fallen off of my radar, it’s just been refined a bit. And the empathy I was trying to instill in my children is definitely present, so we’re on the right track.
When I was young, my Mom used to make an Advent Calendar each year marking the countdown to Christmas. Sometimes she would include fun activities like baking cookies or making gifts. But, when she couldn’t think of anything better to fill the envelope, she instructed us to “Do a Good Deed” that day. We *hated* that one. It was so anti-climactic to rip open the envelope and find “Do a Good Deed” inside. And usually, it appeared multiple times in the course of one Advent Calendar. Total disappointment, because our greedy little selves wanted something tangible … preferably something we could sink our teeth into …
Now, as an adult, and a mother, I’ve grown to appreciate her sentiments. This season should not be all about us. It should be all about giving, selflessly, to others. Especially others who are in need. So this year, I have some ideas about how to involve my children in the Reason for the Season:
- Food Collecting–as mentioned above, we’re going to raid the pantries of our friends and neighbors to support the local food bank, which is feeding more than a quarter of our community right now.
- Toy Purge–before my children are able to make their lists for Santa, they’re going to crawl deep under their beds to dig out the bins that haven’t seen the light of day in months. We’re going to take a good, hard look at what actually gets played with, and what just takes up space in the corners.
- Giving Tree–when we take the donations to the thrift store, we are going to select some families from the Giving Tree, so that when we go visit Santa at the mall for the annual photo where my son smiles and my daughter screams like she’s being tortured, we can also pick out some gifts for families in need. I want my children to pick out those gifts so that they can own the concept of buying for someone else their age.
- Adopting a Child–not actually, physically adopting a child–although we talk about that often–but adopting a child through an international organization that provides food, medicine, clothing, and education to children in a third-world country for a nominal monthly contribution. My kids have a good understanding of “adoption” at their young ages, because many of their classmates come from different countries around the world. They understand that sometimes children come to this country because their countries don’t have enough food to feed them. So, I think having a photo of a child somewhere in the world that they can correspond with, send photos to, and help support will be a good lesson in Thankfulness and Giving.
I don’t say these things to sound holier-than-thou. Because, if you’ve been reading my blog, you know that I certainly am not that. Instead, I list these aspirations because I think that if I voice them to the universe, I will somehow be held accountable to follow-through on these lofty goals. Also, I’m bracing myself to be overwhelmed by the chaos of the holiday season, and I want to have an anchor in the midst of that which keeps me grounded and focused on what is important … building relationships, improving the lives of others, and contributing to society in a positive manner.
And minimizing trips to the shopping mall. At all costs.