Doing Good

Claire has a little bank — a squirrel — that we put coins into. Any time we find a coin on the sidewalk, or whenever a relative sends a dollar bill in a card, the money goes into the bank. The other day, I told her there are people who don’t have any food to eat, and asked her if she would like to help them. She said yes. I told her to choose a number between 1 and 5, and she chose 4. So we took $4 in quarters out of the bank.

Then at the grocery store, I took her to the aisle that had beans and rice. She chose two cans of beans and one bag of rice. We paid for it at the register. It came to $3.99, and she handed the quarters to the cashier. Then she carried the bag (actually, dragged it across the floor) to the food collection barrel installed by Second Harvest Food Bank. Claire shops often with me and understands you have to give money to take the food or other items home. I’m not sure she entirely understood why we left food in a barrel, because the concept of helping out faceless people is really abstract. But it’s the action that matters. It is the practice of acting with compassion that will, over many repetitions, become part of her world view.

Last night I volunteered wrapping presents at The Family Giving Tree, an organization that undertakes a massive annual effort to collect toys and clothing for people in need. When I saw the items, I just about cried. They are wonderful and brand new. Each child listed a first and second gift wish, and some of these were so small: a bottle of perfume, some colored pencils, a basketball. Others of them were a bit more elaborate: a boombox, MP3 player, or Fisher Price Little People toy. But each child was getting one gift, a toothbrush, and if the toy required it, batteries. I almost cried because my daughter, the only child, only grandchild, only niece in both sides of the family, is going to receive so much for the holiday. We are very fortunate.

I did go to their site later and sponsored two children. I think next year I will get more involved in The Family Giving Tree project somehow. I’m glad that many children will get a gift this holiday; what pains me is that the circumstances of their lives are likely difficult. It’s not just a holiday gift they need. They also need food, shelter, safety, stability, security, clothing, and learning opportunities.

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