I have always tried to instill in my children the importance of giving back to the community, that 'pay it forward' mentality. I'm not always successful but then they often surprise me. Generally, at this time of year, we set aside a portion of money to give to a community cause, it has been the food bank, the free lunch program, or most recently the angel tree. We talked about it at dinner on Monday and decided to put the money we had set aside into the pot to save Phelan's homestead. That, to me, is a much more worthy cause than buying a plastic toy that will be briefly played with, then most likely end up in the landfill. Building community- through small acts. We play it out in other ways as well.
Let me tell you about Cassie's Mittens. Cassandra H was one of my daughter's best friends when they were small. They did all the usual little girl things: birthday parties, sleepovers and so on. Her Mom, Debbie, is a friend of mine. Cassie used to frequently come home from school without her mittens, frustrating her parents to no end. 'How can she have lost ANOTHER pair!' Until they learned that Cassie was giving her mittens away on the playground to children who didn't have any and who's hands were cold.
Cassie died of carbon monoxide poisoning, in an incident that nearly took the lives of the rest of her family, when she was 8. Let me tell you, it is a heartbreaking thing to tell your 8 year old child that one of her best friends has died. The winter after her death, a mitten drive was started in her honor, providing gloves, hats and scarves to the local schools so the office would have a supply to give to children who had forgotten, lost or just didn't have mittens- there is no discrimination on income- the only requirement is that the child needed them. This project has grown over the last 6 years to include other agencies. There are donation boxes in the schools, hospitals and area businesses. Last year, we counted, sorted and distributed over 4000 items, to the schools, homeless shelter, free lunch and crisis center. At one point our basement was overrun with mittens, hats and scarves as J14 sorted and packaged them to distribute to the schools.
Giving back to the community can be so simple- holding an elevator for someone, giving a child a pair of mittens, purchasing a little extra for the food bank, giving to a friend. Most of us won't be involved in earthshaking major events. But the power to make real changes aren't in the big things. They are in the small, everyday ways we can make a difference in someone else's lives.
Be the change you want to see in the world. - Mahatma Gandhi-