I like to think that Ken and I have a pretty relaxed style of parenting. We’re not that strict, and we let lots of things slide. Our kids may be high energy and LOUD, but overall, they are pretty good kids.
However, there are two things that we drill into their heads over and over without fail. Manners and kindness. Please and thank you are the most important words in our house, along with I’m sorry. And we have zero tolerance for any behavior that is mean-intentioned. Zero. Instant time-outs or loss of a favorite toy. Griffin knows this, and Jace is learning it too.
Some day, Griffin is going to hate getting in the car with me, because whenever we go somewhere, I talk to him constantly about being nice to the kids at school (even the girls :)) and what to do if he sees someone treating someone else badly. I don’t care if it drives him crazy, or if other parents don’t agree with my intensity on the topic. When he gets on a kick about wanting new toys or certain clothes, I remind him that there are lots of kids who not only don’t get what they want, but who don’t have anything.
Some kids don’t have anything.
Now, I know it’s that time of year when everyone realizes this, and many people decide to do something about it. There are toy drives and food drives all around us, and it’s really amazing how generous people become during December. And believe it or not, there are people who actually criticize those who donate their time or money only once a year. AND, there are actually people who criticize which charities others choose to donate to.
I don’t want to get all preachy here, but I’m trying to figure out how anyone can find something bad to say about people who give their money away to those who need it more, whatever time of year it is. If Christmas time is the time of year that reminds you that it’s time to step up your game, that’s ok. It’s better than ok actually, it’s awesome. Your donations are making a difference.
For our family, and hopefully for many other families out there, giving is part of being kind, and giving has many, many interpretations. It is being nice to everyone. It is saying no to a new pair of shoes and spending that money on groceries for the Food Bank instead. It is buying one less toy for the kids for Christmas this year and buying one extra toy for a kid who has nothing to look forward to on Christmas morning. And guess what? I don’t care where that kid lives. I don’t care if he lives down the street or if he lives on the other side of the world.
I want to encourage people to give freely, without giving a crap what anyone else thinks. If you want to donate your money to an organization based in your own community, do it. If you want to donate to an organization based on the other side of the world, then do it. We are all people, one race. Borders are just lines on a map. We need to help each other – we have to help each other.
Just buy one less toy.
While it is truly no one else’s business how much money we donate during the other eleven months of the year and to whom, at Christmas time, I am happy to tell you that we like to do a little more. This year, we chose our local Food Bank to donate to. But before I tell you what we did and how easy it was and how much of a difference it’s going to make, I’d like you to think about this:
Imagine other parents out there, just like you, who absolutely dread Christmas because they can’t give their kids as much as they would like to on Christmas morning. They watch their sons and daughters write their letters to Santa with excitement, trying to figure out where they’re going to get the money for that Lego set or the Hello Kitty dress. Their kids are young, so they don’t understand why Santa doesn’t bring them the same things he brings their friends at school. Mom can’t spend hours scoping out sales and shopping for deals because she has no money, and Dad can’t help either because he’s working two jobs and has no time. The thought of seeing their children disappointed on Christmas morning breaks their hearts. They can’t make Christmas dinner, they may not even be able to have the awesome pancake breakfast the kids are looking forward to this year. You can say all you want about this not being “what Christmas is all about,” and you’re right, this is not what Christmas is all about. BUT, this is the reality, and perhaps you’ve never been in this position. We buy presents for our kids and for our loved ones, year after year. This is part of our culture where we live, and this is not going to change any time soon. What if one year, you had no money. What if this was your family? Would you still say “that’s not what Christmas is about anyway?” Probably not.
These people are your neighbours. They are your co-workers. They are your friends. Yes, they live in your neighbourhood, and their kids go to school with your kids.
So considering all this, Griffin and I went shopping. And we bought some stuff. Not a lot of stuff, but a small cartload of stuff:
Then we asked my parents to buy a few things; and they did. And when their friends found out we were doing this; they bought stuff too. And then I asked my brother to buy a few things; and he did. And then he asked all his students at school to bring something in; and they did. And before we knew it, the back of our van looked like this:
It was full.
And when I got home, I cried.
Because I realized that when many people contribute just a little bit, it makes a huge difference for someone else. It doesn’t take much. We didn’t spend a lot of money, but look what it turned into.
And despite the excited look on Griffin’s face in the second photo, he wasn’t exactly as excited as I was about what we were doing. He doesn’t really get it yet. Maybe because he has everything he needs at home. But that’s our job, to teach him that not everyone has a house full of toys or a fridge full of food in this world. It is our job to take him by the hand, over and over again and show him how we can help. And next year Jace will come shopping with us. It is not optional.
This is kindness. Knowing the reality of the way the world is, I really do feel as though we all have a responsibility to help each other, regardless of our incomes, social status, or geographic boundaries. We’re in it together. Imagine how much better life would be if we were all just a little more equal 🙂
And because I said that manners are so important, I’d like to thank not only my own family for contributing to the Food Bank this year, but to all the students at Madeline Symonds Middle School who brought in toothbrushes, toothpaste, shampoo, soap, deodorant, dish detergent, laundry detergent, dish cloths, food, clothes and toys. Wow. I’m so proud of you and I don’t even know you. You are making a difference.
Please donate generously this holiday season. If you want to but don’t know how, email me – firstname.lastname@example.org. I’m happy to help.
Merry Christmas 🙂