Meet my mom, Candace Catherine. She is the little girl on the left sporting the pointy glasses, yellow dress, and forced smile indicating that even a fancy hat and dress can't keep trouble too far off. My mom is a true GIVER. My mom agreed to write about her experience as a GIVER, and this is what she shared-
Several years ago I did a favor not knowing it was myself I was really favoring. Our local Meals on Wheels program needed volunteers to deliver lunches to clients who were mentally, physically or emotionally incapable of preparing their own meal. I started thinking I was being selfless by volunteering for Meals on Wheels, and I am fully aware this has evolved into my receiving much more than I am giving.
So here's the situation-
I left city living about six years ago. Recently, I returned to Denver and found myself surprised by the large homeless population. Where did all of these people come from or were they always there, and I'm just now noticing?
Do you know I've never given money to anyone on the street? Not a dollar, not a quarter, not a dime...nothing ever.
As God is moving me to think about our giving as a family, I am thankful that I am forced to stop and evaluate my thoughts on giving as an individual.
Why don't I give to people on the street? I guess a part of me believes a lot of the homeless people I see panhandling don't need the money, and they are just trying to scam. A part of me thinks back to that time in college when my husband and his friends were robbed one late night in Chicago. A part of me worries that my giving is going to contribute to an addictive behavior or enable a person to stay on the street. I guess a part of me just feels better, safer, and cleaner when I cross the street and find a distraction so I don't have to think about a possibly awkward encounter. Then a big part of me wonders what I should say when my daughter asks why I don't give, and I don't have an answer.
This time when she asked I replied, "I don't know. Do you want a Jamba Juice?"
In middle school I remember drawing blue rectangles on the back of my white tennis shoes because I didn’t have Keds. Later a heavy rain washed away my hand drawn designers.
In high school, I saved for months for my $35.00 pair of Guess Jeans because that coveted little triangle sewn into the back pocket screamed, “See me people, I belong”. About two weeks later the jeans (and a whole load of laundry) was stolen from the dryer in the apartment complex in which we lived.
In college, I wore a shirt advertising Harvard because well, that showed status and said that I was smart. Only I didn’t go to Harvard. I went to a state school.
Today I don’t want clothes (except that really cute, gray romper on sale at Target as we speak…that would be nice) and truly, on most days I feel not only content, but truly happy and overwhelmed at the endless list of blessings God has bestowed on me.
However, today I’m seeing old friends- good friends that I haven’t seen in years and my insecure self is popping up and wishing I looked different, worked an exciting job, and had some serious achievements to share.
Then I hear “Better Than” by the John Butler Trio,
"Oh why, oh why
Do I look to the other side
Cuz I know the grass is greener but
Just as hard to mow"
And I smile because he is absolutely right.
Take a listen.
While researching volunteer opportunities for my family, I ran across an Atlanta based organization called Compassionate Kids, Incorporated. Even though Compassionate Kids is based in Atlanta, it has local chapters all over the United States. Hmmm, that sounded interesting so I emailed Amy D’Unger, Chair of the Board of Directors with Compassionate Kids to see if she would tell me (and you!) more about the organization. Here’s what Amy said:
1. In a sentence or two can you tell us the mission of Compassionate Kids? The mission of Compassionate Kids, Inc. is to teach children to have compassion for the earth, people, and animals. Read more about us at www.compassionatekids.com
2. Can you discuss a favorite volunteer experience you had as a child or an activity you completed with your children that has had a positive impact on you today? My son is still three, so it's hard to do meaningful volunteer experiences with him quite yet. However, Compassionate Kids had a wonderful event at a nursing home last year on Valentine's Day. Children went to the facility and crafted paper flowers with/for the residents, and attached poems about love and compassion to the flowers. For those residents who were not able to leave their rooms, the children delivered the flowers to them and decorated.
3. What are some of the benefits of volunteering as a family? There are SO many benefits!! First and foremost, it teaches them compassion by watching you, as a parent or guardian, being compassionate. You are leading by example by participating with them in a volunteer or service learning activity. It can be a bonding moment among family members, as conversations and lines of discussion can open up while family members are working together. It can also help you learn more about your child and his or her interests, concerns, and ideas. Finally, it can also assist your child in working in a group or team setting to solve problems. Most volunteer work is done with others, whether family or acquaintances or even strangers, so children learn how to cooperate, work together, and problem solve.
4. How do you find the right volunteer activity for you and your family? You have to be mindful in finding appropriate activities for your child. First and foremost, to make this about *them,* choose an activity that is interesting to them, not necessarily to just you (as the parent). You need to consider your child's age, as well as his or her mental, emotional, and psychological development. Often, volunteer situations can put children in contact with things that may be distressing to them (particularly if they are very sensitive and "tuned in" to others)--people experiencing poverty, animals in need, etc. Will your child be able to process and learn from the experience? How much time does this volunteer task take? Will this be a one-time event, or will it really be most meaningful with continued involvement? You also need to consider the nature of the task, facility, and staff with whom you might be working. Is this really a "child-friendly" environment? Are the staff used to and excited about working with kids, or is this a place best suited for older kids and teens? You can read more about this on the CK website at www.compassionatekids.com/volunteering.shtml.
5. Where can parents go to learn more about Compassionate Kids? Visit us on the web or email me at email@example.com.
Pack lunches. Sign papers. Find dance shoes. Pay the before school lady. Wait, it’s pizza day. Forget the lunch, get lunch money. Puree some green beans for the baby. Where are the diapers? Pull my hair back (no time for a haircut, you know!). Did we get the check for dance? Of course we are late. Where’s the checkbook? Never mind, we don’t have dance today. It’s Wednesday. Wednesday? Shoot, it’s PE. Quick, go change. You can’t wear a dress today. Where’s the booster seat? You left it at Masen’s? How can it be there? You didn’t use it to get home? What? Your dad knows better. Fine, get in the car. Why is Ruby crying? Can you find some random thing on the car floor for her to play with? No, I’m sorry I can’t go back home because you forgot your glasses. You’ll be fine for now. Ride bus 104 home. If anything changes, I’ll call the school and then you will know to ride bus 66 home. I know you hate bus 66. The driver isn’t that mean. Ok, love you! See you after school. Drive, drive, drive. Here’s the baby’s bag, food, and I’m sure she is ready for a nap because she has been up since 5:30 am. Drive, drive, drive. Ahhh, I arrive at the high school in which I teach. The bell rings and my other “kids” arrive. You know the teenage variety complete with sassy attitudes. And now my day begins.
When life speeds by, it is hard to remind myself to be generous. I joke, but being generous with myself is so much more than making time for a haircut or friends. It’s about listening to my heart and quieting the constant noise that goes along with being a wife, mom, woman, and friend.
This was me when I realized that apparently different browsers make sites show up differently to people who view them. You know if you have good ‘ol Internet Explorer 7 or an older version of Foxfire, well then my blog looks less than perfect.
Less than perfect? Listen up, I can’t have anything less than perfect. I can’t have a date running through my post title. I can’t have my navigation bars all the way over to the right…no siree. That is not aesthetically appealing, and I well, I um, can’t deal with it.
So I run down the list of what usually happens in my world when things are less than perfect: freak out, complain, obsess, attempt to search the internet for a variety of things that won’t help me, and finally breathe (Note: The above stated behaviors can be applied to almost any situation and unfortunately extend for an unspecified period of time).
I know my thinking isn’t right, but I’m hard on myself…often, and I’ve gone on with this must-be-perfect attitude for years.
Then today as I was driving through the rain, it came to me. God knows all of my flaws- each and every nasty little secret, and what’s worse is I have no way of trying to put on a happy face for him, ever.
Ouch. So hard and yet so freeing.
God has some serious patience for me when I kid myself into thinking that I have everything together, and later He smiles when the fog lifts, and I remember how great He is and how tiny I am.
So for today instead of thinking about GIVING GRACIOUSLY to others, I’m going to GIVE GRACIOUSLY to myself. I’m giving myself permission to be flawed, and it feels good.
A few words from my girl:
We had a lemonade stand. A thoansd people came. When we raisd money,my mom said “You have to give some money to the poor. I didn’t really want to, but It was fun. By Amelia, age 8.
1. Attempting to sell a mini deck of playing cards from a McDonald's Happy Meal to our neighbors.
2. Starting the Pinecone Café. A small establishment located on her play set with a piece of loose leaf paper attached to the slide advertising the sale of pinecones.
3. Planning a garage sale. A complete list of sale items included two of her sister’s toys, an old Polly Pocket, and a puzzle that was missing three pieces.
Being that none of her business attempts panned out, when Amelia asked to have a lemonade stand, I happily agreed. There was only one stipulation- everyone involved had to give part of their earnings to someone else. Teachable moment, teachable moment. Here I am trying to emphasize my idea of giving to others. I'm so amazing. Hosting a lemonade stand, having friends over, and teaching important life lessons. Where is my cape?
My daughter (and her two friends) assured me that giving to others would be easy because they all happened to be very, very generous.
Three fashionable scarves (apparently you have to look good to sell lemonade even if it is 80 degrees), loads of sunscreen, multiple pitchers of pink lemonade, and an hour later, they walked up the driveway with $30.00. Yes, $30.00. Times have changed people.
Amelia’s friends leave, and she is planning ways to spend her cash.
“Don’t forget, you need to decide how much you want to give to someone else,” I remind.
Now here’s the part I can relate to-
“How much to I have to give?” she asks, generosity apparently forgotten.
Initially I’m annoyed, and then I think that comment is so me.
What do I have to do? What do I have to bring? When will I have to show up?
Rarely is it, What do I get to do?
I see myself in her and think, Self, you need a little work.
The loss of a parent. The loss of a sibling, a child, a loved one. The loss of a career, a house, your health.The loss of a dream.
The rock in your throat. The nausea. The overwhelming veil of hopelessness. Your arms so heavy they refuse to lift. Every action forced. Every breath labored. Everywhere dark.
Recently I listened to a song I’ve heard many times (“Hosana” by Hillsong). One of the lines continues to play over and over in my head this week.
“Open up my eyes to the things unseen…break my heart for what breaks yours.”
I wonder what remains unseen because our eyes aren’t open.
I wonder what breaks God’s heart. I wonder what experiences people are going through this very second that would break mine.
I think one big piece of GRACIOUS GIVING is not just writing a check or spending two hours a week helping an organization. Part of the process GRACIOUS GIVING is finding something in the world that breaks your heart and educating yourself about it.