I am moving in a few weeks and have been going through my clothing, gadgets, shoes, and more. While researching charities to donate my unneeded items to here in New York, it made me think that I am so fortunate that my mother and father taught me the importance of not just throw away things. Instead proactively go through your home a few times a year and give things to charity and those in need. I decided that I am going to donate to a local AIDS organization for families who have members with AIDS and that struggle.
Charity and the spirit of giving have been elevated to a new level in the past few years, following natural disasters like the earthquake in Japan, the war in Iraq, and terrorist attacks around the globe. Your child doesn’t have to be a Carnegie, a Ford, or a Rockefeller, to become a philanthropist.
Many parents are using the destruction delivered by these catastrophes as an opportunity to help children learn about charity and the importance of reaching out to others in their time of need.
You can make a family donation – big or small – and involve your child by allowing them to pick out the charity, write the check and even prepare the envelope to mail it. It is important to allow your children to witness turning pain and grief/loss into a time of extending love and compassion to those they don’t even know, whether it be in the United States or around the world.
Here is how your family can help.
1. Donate clothes like me!
Periodically go through your closets rooting out clothes you haven’t worn in a while, which can be given to the Salvation Army or Goodwill for distribution to the needy. I always say if you haven’t worn it in 6-9 months…someone more deserving needs those clothes. Encourage your children to do the same. Allow them to select which clothes or toys they wish to donate. The value of this activity is diminished greatly if you go through their closets for them without their presence. For maximum benefit, get your children involved in choosing the appropriate items. Take your children with you when you drop the items off at the charitable destination.
2. Help neighbors.
Regularly engage in a service-oriented project. Rake the leaves of an elderly couple. Bake cookies for a serviceman or servicewoman. If you have leftovers from when you go out to dinner, give them to a homeless person and teach your children that you just gave them a good meal.
3. Make birthdays charitable.
Set up birthday parties as a time for giving to others. At your child’s first school-age birthday party, ask guests to bring a gift of a book (new or used) to be donated to a local charity. Talk to your son about the books he has and about children who have no books. Explain that one way to celebrate a birthday would be to give to those who have less. Involve the birthday boy in the decision of whether or not to give the books to a woman’s shelter, a doctor’s office, or some other appropriate organization. When you deliver the books with your son, record it on camera, and revisit that movie (or those pictures) on future birthdays.
4. Give back to pets.
At regular intervals, buy dog or cat food and take it to the humane society. Allow your children to spend some time with the recipients of the gift.
5. Deliver nutrition.
Build food baskets around the holidays and give to a needy family suggested by your church or school. Involve your children is selecting canned goods, fruit, and other treats to include. Decorate the gift package and deliver it together, as a family.
6. Help elders.
Do things for the elderly that they have trouble doing for themselves. Pick up sticks in your neighbor’s yard after a big windstorm. Mow the grass for Grandma. Wash Grandpa’s car. Clean their windows in the spring. Help them plant flowers.
7. Pitch in.
Get on a regular service schedule at your church or synagogue. Sign up for a time to mow the grass and trim the bushes. Take your turn ushering and allow your child to assist.
By implementing some of these ideas or others like them, you will be teaching your children that charity is not reserved only for emergencies. You will be helping them appreciate that reaching out to others in need is a way of life, rather than a moment in time when a catastrophic disaster occurs.
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