This has been an amazing, interesting summer.
We have had our usual tons of fun at the beach, visiting with family, and taking advantage of some local tourist attractions we hadn’t visited yet.
But there’s been more than that, and it’s really had me thinking over the past week or so.
Our kids have been really trying hard to find ways to make a difference in the lives of others more than ever, this summer. They seem to have really found a global awareness of the plight of others, to have developed a true social consciousness. I find the whole thing interesting, amazing, and of course, I’m so proud of them. They’ve always wanted to find ways to help others, they’re always asking and searching, but this summer it seems they’ve found ways on more than one occasion to put their desires to help into action.
Summer started out with Elizabeth’s birthday, which she dedicated to raising money and supplies and creating crafts for the local Ronald McDonald House. The idea was one she came up with herself, and I wrote about it here. We were so proud of her.
Then came the second Healthy Lunchtime Challenge/Kids’ State Dinner 2013, which although we didn’t attend this year, we were privy to all of the excitement that we got to read about on our Facebook group page. It was on there, that I read this article about Braeden Mannering of Bear, Delaware, this year’s HLC winner from that state. In the article I read about Braeden creating what he called his “Brae Bags,” which he keeps on hand, filled with food, water and brochures; “a soup-kitchen-to-go” as he calls them, to help people who are in need whenever he encounters them. I was particularly struck by Braeden’s idea of his bags because all of my kids are always asking what we can do to help those who are homeless or in need, whenever we pass them on the road. I never had a good answer, until I read the article about Braeden. I thought it was such a great idea that I read it to my kids and they agreed. We went out a few days later and bought supplies to fill our own bags (cereal bars, a bottle of water, fruit snacks and two pieces of hard candy) which we handed out to people as we came across them in our travels. We first filled six bags and within about seven days we filled six more. We keep them in a cardboard box in our car, ready to go. It gives us all a great feeling to be able to help someone else in need. We filled our bags with items from Dollar Tree, so it’s not a costly way to help others, and the value far outweighs the cost. Although we are helping others, it is us who leave feeling blessed. It’s reminded all of us how lucky we are and how little it takes to help someone else.
Recently we started to give our kids an allowance each week. It’s a new initiative at our house and so far it’s gone well. It’s good to see the girls working hard, saving money for college (part of their allowance goes into savings) and saving money for fun things they’ve always eyed but been unable to buy. Elizabeth found a new kind of doll at Target, and I was fascinated when she told me all about the Hearts for Hearts dolls and why she wanted to buy one. It turns out that each doll is from a particular country and comes with their own story. The doll she first fell in love with, as she tells it, was the one from Afghanistan, and the biggest thing for Elizabeth was that by purchasing her, learning her story, which is quite sad, she was helping girls from around the world who are less fortunate than she is. You can read more about that here. This doll is one of her top favorites and since she’s gotten her, she’s already started planning her next purchase.
And finally, for now anyway, around the same time, Elizabeth stumbled across another Target initiative. They’ve teamed up with FEED USA, to offer a wide variety of products designed to help feed children and families across the country. That’s all she needed to hear. Having gone a whole school year last year with the same backpack from the previous year, I’d promised her an update for this school year. When she saw that Target had a backpack in the lineup of items for the FEED USA program, she insisted that had to be her backpack. Each item in the product line has a number stamped on it, the number of people it will feed by your purchasing it. Her backpack which would cost $28 at full retail price (I never pay full price for anything) and would feed 28 people. She was thrilled. We had to order it online because our store is sold out of many of the FEED USA items. I used my Target Red Card which got me free shipping and saved me an additional 5% off the price and I had a $5 Target gift card as well. For $23 we fed 28 people. Since the backpack hasn’t arrived yet, I don’t have a photo to show you. Once I do, I’ll add it in.
So all in all, it’s been a great summer. We’ve spent time with family, been to the beach, a mansion, and a water park. We’ve fed 28 people across the country and helped at least seven of those who are homeless in our own community. We’ve also helped to ease the plight of girls less fortunate than us around the world and given some comfort to those whose children are receiving treatment at our local hospitals. We’ve been busier than I thought.
Our awareness of others in need and of our own blessings has been raised significantly. I can’t point to just one thing that made the difference, but rather a combination of things we’re all involved with, from church, to school to scouts, to national events, to our dinner table conversations. Whatever it is, I’ll take it. I like the socially conscious people that our children are becoming and I hope that we as parents can help to encourage that type of social awareness even further in the coming months and years so that when we let our children go out into the world on their own, we can be proud of the adults they’ve become.