“Giving back.” “Paying it forward.” “Doing unto others.” There are many ways to phrase it but certainly one of the most important lessons we can teach our children is the value of helping others. From the biblical story of the Good Samaritan to news items regarding popular celebrities’ charitable efforts, many examples are available to share with them.
Even more important than the ‘telling’ is the ‘doing.’ What can you actually DO with your kids to help them, in the words of one of my favorite children's books, Miss Rumphius, "make the world a better place?” In recalling what we've done; while it seemed like little enough at the time, I can only hope that the small efforts will add up in my kids' memories and help to shape their characters for the better.
One of the easiest things we introduced has been our “trash walks.” Grab a couple of bags for each walker (one for trash, one for recycling) and hit your neighborhood streets. You'll be surprised at how quickly you will fill the bags and how much better the streets look when you are done. Bonus: kids are low to the ground and can easily stoop to reach the trash, as well as the occasional penny or dime they find! Savvy moms: go out ahead & plant a few coins to keep the thrill level and enthusiasm high!
As Christmas approaches each year, I try to impress upon my two kids how very fortunate they are and how we need to share with others. Three years ago we co-sponsored a family through Social Services and Katherine accompanied me to Target to go shopping for them. Two years ago we bought items off the SPCA ‘Wish List.’ Last year...I dropped the ball...but Robert picked it up, deciding to play Santa to a younger friend by giving him some of his outgrown toys. This year I am thinking SPCA again, in honor of our kitty, Felicity, whom we got there last spring.
A couple of our friends have done something I wish we could do: their daughters have donated their hair to organizations such as ‘Locks of Love’ and ‘Pantene Beautiful Lengths,’ both of which donate the hair to individuals dealing with hair loss due to medical issues. Unfortunately, Katherine's hair grows about 1" per year, so there is nothing for her to spare. Robert's hair grows fast and thick...but I'm not sure he wants hair flowing down his back, not to mention how his grandparents might react to the sight of their six-year-old grandson with a pony tail!
In addition to these efforts, we have done some community volunteering at the Mott’s Run Visitor’s Cabin where Katherine loves showing off ‘Pocket the Corn Snake’ to park visitors! On the international front, we sponsor two children in South America through Plan, USA. One is a girl, a little younger than Katherine and the other is a boy, approximately Robert’s age. My hope is to foster a sort of pen pal relationship between each pair, and to this end, Robert has drawn pictures for the little boy and Katherine has sent a couple of letters to the girl.
There are many ways we can each do our part and I will keep on searching for more opportunities. As for Miss Rumphius? She planted lupines all up and down the countryside, thus making her corner of the world a more beautiful place. So…get digging!
Mary Becelia lives with her family in southern Stafford.