As we enter the season of giving, my partner and I – as you might be experiencing too – have received a number of requests by mail and email to give to local, national and global charities. My husband threw a stack of requests on our dining table for us to quickly review together and select which ones to donate to. When I sat down, I dove into looking at each ready to check this task off the list. And then, we paused. And we recalled our family practice of involving our son each time we make this kind of decision ensuring he has a voice in who we give to.
This year, in addition to charities we typically support, E, now 16 years old, was eager to support a Native American nonprofit that does important work in our regional area and that over the past year, I’ve begun to learn about and follow. As we give to new charities, it’s easy to pay online with a few clicks and be finished. But giving is ultimately about a relationship. So when we create a relationship, we follow up. The nonprofit we are learning about has food trucks and caters large platters of various traditional tribal foods so, with some friends, we plan to share in a dinner including these foods as a way to further develop our new friendship with this organization (and we’ll benefit by enjoying Indian fry bread, a worthwhile indulgence!).
Here are a few questions to prompt your own reflections:
- How are you making giving meaningful in your family life?
- How are you discussing community needs with your children?
- Are you asking your children or teens what they are passionate about; where they find injustice; or who they care about serving?
- How are you creating relationships with people and organizations that you are giving to?
- Are you considering other ways to give beyond financial – of time, of energy, of your personal strengths and expertise, or of items needed?
As you honor Giving Tuesday each week of the holiday season, here are some ideas for making your giving a more meaningful experience for your whole family.
1. Gather and Imagine our World.
Maybe you designate a family dinner in which to discuss your giving? Pause and consider all that you have to give – of your time, energy, passions and love. In that pause, create empathy first by taking a moment (close your eyes if it helps you) to imagine our world at that very moment. Imagine babies being born and elderly who are dying. Imagine people engaged in war. Imagine people doing the hard work of peacemaking. Imagine children eating a meal with their families all over the world. Imagine the top country leaders moving through their day. Imagine the homeless person identifying where they will sleep for the night. And don’t forget about our planet too… imagine the birds outside, the life in our oceans, elephants on the African savannah, and penguins and polar bears in Antartica. What brings up passion and love and care for your family? Direct your attention there. And if there are far too many passions to pursue, pick a couple to learn about and begin to develop a connection with. Through this process, you’ll be cultivating social awareness and responsible decision-making skills – key to your children’s success today and in their future.
With the voices of your children and teens involved, It’s likely that their passions will stir care for populations and issues that may not be typical for your family’s giving habits or even on your radar at all. So if your children say they care about supporting Native American causes, do a search. If you can’t discover enough about the organization to truly understand how they serve, then subscribe to their newsletter. Take a first small step to become informed and begin the relationship with your family.
3. Think Global, Act Local.
Remember this saying? Because meaningful giving involves a relationship and healthy relationships are reciprocal (meaning you give and they give, you graciously receive and they graciously receive), giving in person matters. So consider: how can you meet people you are giving to this season? How can you interact with the community you are concerned about or sharing care for? I love this article and story from one of Confident Parents’ lead author’s Nikkya Hargrove on what she did with her children last holiday season who were concerned about the homeless people they saw when they were driving places during the holidays. For her story and ideas, check out “Gifting Social and Emotional Learning during the Holidays.”
We, as adults and change-makers, are entering this season with the difficult knowledge that war is impacting far too many lives in our world. This awareness can make us feel a sense of helplessness. Yet, we are never helpless. Small actions do make a difference. And this process of serving with our families can help us feel a sense of agency — that we are not alone, that we are working with others toward positive outcomes. Every bit counts! You and your care matter. And training your children and teens how to give meaningfully is a service in and of itself. You are offering them a sense of hope and a knowledge of their agency – the fact that they too can make a difference – today and for a lifetime.
For Educators and Homeschoolers – Service learning is a powerful teaching strategy for offering children and teens authentic practice with social and emotional skills. There are numerous ideas and resources here at the National Service Learning Clearinghouse.