The holidays are a time of reflection, when folks look back on the year’s events and give thanks for what they have. It’s also a time when we’re reminded of those in our local and global community who are in need of assistance, support, and encouragement. As a result, charitable giving is at its peak during the holidays. This makes it an opportune time for parents to talk to their children about the importance of philanthropy.
Each holiday season I try to do just that by involving my children in small service projects, toy drives and food drives. Yet, I always wonder why I’m not better at making this act of “giving back” a more consistent year long practice. It’s not like the problems of the world disappear come January 1st only to return again at Thanksgiving.
Maybe the message would sink in deeper with my kids if we had ongoing conversations about how most families in the world don’t have the same luxuries we do. All of the things that make our lives easy and extremely comfortable are dream worthy for most. The roof over our head, the appliances that routinely do our dirty work, the electronics that entertain us, the list goes on and on. Maybe if we had these conversations more often we could work together as a family to identify real world problems that resonate with us and move us to lend not just our check book but our hands. If we were actively engaged in supporting the work of an organization or two, maybe then my kids wouldn’t be so miffed when I tell them they can’t purchase a new app for their iPad, or they have to limit their screen time to weekends only or they have to eat the grilled herbed salmon and roasted vegetables I prepared for their dinner (that I’m now kicking myself for having spent the money on in the first place). My husband and I are always mumbling under our breaths how our kids don’t know how good they have it. But at the same time, we’re enablers, we’re guilty of keeping their world small. All they know is what’s right in front of them.
One family I know has been a great role model for “Walking the walk.” Much of their free time is devoted to supporting local organizations that work in the areas of homelessness, social justice and civil rights. They volunteer, they attend rallies, they provide resources and materials, they get to know not only the staff but the individuals who rely on these organizations. They are building community bonds.
Now, as much as I applaud their commitment, I do find myself wondering how families that are already juggling work, school, homework and after school sports and activities can carve out time for philanthropic efforts. But maybe that’s just it, maybe when you want to incorporate something new into your schedule it forces you to ask how you really want to spend the time you have. What is truly important to you? What are you willing to carve out more time for?
My New Year’s resolution is to start having more discussions with my family to explore where we would like to lend our support and how. It’s a great way to get us all to remember just how good we have it and how important it is to extend a helping hand.
My original intention was to end this piece with a brief list of some local non-profit organizations that can use volunteer support. But the need is so great it’s difficult to select certain organizations over others. So, I’ll leave it up to you to ask yourselves what is important to your family, what philanthropic act are you willing to carve out more time for and how do you want to build community bonds?
Feel free to share your answers by leaving a comment. It would be great to use this as a place to generate ideas!
About the Author
Meg Butterworth lives in NW Seattle with her husband and two children. She’s been a part of the PEPS community for almost nine years. WOW! When she has a couple of kid free hours she enjoys writing, exploring Seattle, and enjoying a couple of beverages with her life line of fellow Mom friends.