This Summer, Pumpkin and I decided to take on a few projects to help others. We were aiming for five – since she just turned 5 – but we landed on three. We’ll keep looking for more opportunities!
Donations instead of presents
Pumpkin loves birthdays, especially her own. A couple months before she turned 5, we were headed home from school one day and she said, “Mom, I can’t wait for my birthday party because I’m going to get so many presents.”
Well, this gave me pause because our girls have plenty of toys and clothes so we have always asked that guests not bring gifts to their birthday parties. I explained to her that we don’t have parties to receive gifts but to spend time with people we care about. I let her know she would still get gifts from family, but suggested that perhaps she could ask her party guests to instead make a donation as one of her other friends had recently done. She liked this idea and we ended up requesting donations for The BIG Outside, a fundraiser to build an outdoor play area at Cardon Children’s Medical Center. (Disclosure, I work for Banner Health.)
We came up with a little poem to include on her party invites:
The gift of your presence is present enough
But if you’d like to give, instead of stuff
Pumpkin would like to help other kids play
Use the link to make a donation today
One thing I will say about Pumpkin – the kid has big ideas. When we were explaining to her Grandma what we were requesting, she said, “But that’s not what I wanted.” (I was sure this is where she was going to tell Grandma that she wanted presents for herself and that mom was making her do this.) “I wanted the playground to cover the whole world!” she said. (Phew.)
As we were brainstorming more ways she could help others, she had another big idea. We had been talking about making bags with water and snacks for when we saw someone on the street asking for help. “We could buy them a car!” I explained that isn’t exactly in our budget, but I liked that she was thinking so generously.
We went ahead and made the bags, each of us selecting a couple of the items to include, trying to find a variety of items and making sure there was (hopefully) nothing that would melt. We ended up with sandwich crackers, raisins, granola bars and beef jerky.
The idea for our final project before school starts came to us via Facebook. I saw a post that said the St. Mary’s Food Bank was in need of donations, and especially low on cereal and canned fruit. We decided to organize a neighborhood collection and on Saturday morning, we set up a table and sat out in the driveway and offered treats – marshmallow Cheerio bars seemed fitting! – to those who brought donations.
I was pleasantly surprised at how many people came by on a hot and muggy morning – some we knew, some we didn’t – by foot, bike and car. It turned out to be a great way to meet some neighbors and help others at the same time! I will deliver the donations on Monday and sign Pumpkin up to be a Junior Hunger Hero.
I won’t pretend that my kids have totally learned gratitude or even empathy. There are times I will try to surprise Pumpkin with something – say, a purple popsicle – and rather than saying thank you, she will stomp her feet because she didn’t want purple, she wanted pink. Hopefully those things will come in time. But I was so pleased with how much interest she took in doing these projects to help others, and I hope we can make this more of a regular thing.