These past couple of months I often heard people refer to “the season of giving.” The holidays seem to bring this out in people more than at other times. It made me wonder, why is there only one season for giving? Why limit ourselves? There are opportunities to give every single day, 365 days a year. Sometimes I think people equate giving with money only. Sure money helps a lot but money won’t keep an elementary school kid from being teased or a middle school kid from feeling lonely or a high school kid from feeling overwhelmed or a college student from feeling lost or a new mom from feeling exhausted or a father from feeling pressure or a teacher from feeling unvalued or a grandparent from feeling forgotten. Perhaps the most important thing we each can give is, simply, kindness.
Still, thinking kind thoughts, wonderful as they are, is not enough. Your smile, your compliment, your acknowledgment of another is action, real action that you can take that will impact another. Similarly, thinking about poverty, homelessness, gender violence, global warming, etc. isn’t enough. It’s a place to start. The issues sound so big and we’re left feeling that there is nothing we can do that will really make an impact. There is this pervasive belief that we’re all too busy. We’re already pulled in a thousand directions– who has time to take on world hunger? Sometimes I hear from other parents that kids need to be kids and have more time to play and shouldn’t be burdened with the harsh realities of the world around them just yet. So they play a lot of sports and a lot of electronic games. I love play! Love, love, love sports! And I still think we have time to care about others and give. Recently I was watching my son and his friend laugh together while sitting side by side on the couch playing games on their devices. I so love hearing the laughter but after an hour of this they seemed caught in a zone. I asked them if they wanted to take on a challenge. Knowing me and my ways, they were instantly suspicious! They took a chance and said, sure– bring it on. I placed 5 food items in front of them and asked them to create a winning appetizer. My son’s friend hasn’t cooked much and began to get agitated. He had no idea what to make. He stared at the ingredients for a long time. 5 random things. We started to talk about food choices and how many we have and how we take it for granted that meals come easily to us. Most of us. I asked the boys if they had any idea how much money the 5 ingredients before them might cost. They were shocked when we figured it out. We started to talk about the poverty line and how people can possibly manage to live on $1.25 a day in this country. They asked how kids living below the poverty line get lunch at school. Fact is, more than half of American kids who attend public school rely on a meal at school for the only one they’ll get. As my son and his friend talked and had fun while creating their culinary masterpieces they were thinking about hunger and poverty. Then we talked about action, what could they do, how could they give of themselves to someone who is cold, hungry, homeless in our own community. And so it begins…
There ARE things we can do. Kids can volunteer at local shelters for certain needs. You know that laughter coming from the couch of two boys playing electronic games? What if those boys went to the shelter with some hot chocolate and sat with someone there and played with them for an hour? It’s a simple act, requiring no real money. What if that smile shared felt so good that they went back again another evening? I can honestly tell you that giving from your heart is just as addictive as video games or the adrenaline rush from a perfect shot on the court. We can play and learn. We can play and think about others. We can play with others who don’t have much of a chance for play. We can play and give.
It’s the little bits of good that each of us can do that truly can overwhelm the world. Every day, every season…
P.S. the boys made the most delicious crostini with toasted marshmallow, basalmic-infused sun dried tomatoes!