It’s the time of year when all of us sit back and count our blessings. Most of us also look for ways to share some of our “extra” with others who are not as fortunate as we are. It can be difficult for children to understand this type of giving, however: your kids might not be at the stage where they can empathize with those living in less favorable conditions. During the holiday season, there are a lot of organizations and special events taking place that your family can participate in in order to share in the spirit of giving. Of course, there are also a lot of opportunities throughout the year that don’t stop during the winter months. Here are some ways that you might be able to get your kids involved in age-appropriate ways:
- Buy gifts for an angel. The Salvation Army and other charities often put up Angel Trees this time of year. Most of the time, it’s a Christmas tree with paper angel ornaments. Each “angel” bears the first name (or identification code) and age of a child who might not otherwise receive holiday gifts. Each year, I have my kids choose an angel, and we buy gifts for that child. Most of the time, they look for kids of their own age and sex, which really sends the message home that there are children just like them who won’t be waking up to a pile of gifts under the Christmas tree this year.
- Fill stockings for the needy. This is another drive put on by various charities, but you can do it on your own, as well. Fill stockings with necessities for homeless children and adults, or perhaps for the elderly living in nursing homes. Some examples might be small toys, hairbrushes, toothbrushes, decks of cards, warm socks, hand lotion, hair accessories, pens and pencils, snacks like packages of crackers or granola bars, $5 gift certificates to the grocery store, etc. Bring the filled stockings to your local homeless coalition, battered women’s shelter or other community center that helps the needy.
- Provide a poor family in another country with a hand up. One of my kids’ favorite charities in Heifer International. What this organization does is give livestock to families in developing countries and teach the people how to properly care for them. These animals allow the families to breed them for money or food, as well as sell (and use) any resulting wool, eggs or milk. This organization can help bring families, as well as entire communities, out of poverty.
Of course, your family can also participate in various drives for collecting food and funds for the poor in your area. Drop off donations at a food shelter, or donate to your local church; most places of worship have a box where community members and congregants can drop off non-perishable foods to be distributed to families who need them. Your child’s school might also be a donation point; ask his teacher for more information.
Are there any special ways that you and your family help the needy during the holidays, or throughout the year?