I never imagined saying this, but hands-down, one of the best things our family does all year is make bags of food and supplies for those in need. To both me and Debbie, it felt important to find a way to teach and include our children in charitable giving. (If you missed it, you can read Part 1 of this post about teaching our children about giving.) In the fall of 2015, Debbie wrote about our family’s first charitable project in which our three kids handmade and distributed 40 bags of food to those in need.
We had such a positive experience and we were so excited to do it again this year. Our kids even raised and contributed some of their own money and we were able to nearly double our efforts, giving out 75 bags of food and supplies this fall!
Doing this as a family for a second time felt both eye-opening and heart-opening for me and I wanted to share some of the observations I made this time around.
Giving Connects Us
For most of my adult life, I have lived in cities with very large homeless populations (Berkley, NYC, and now Boulder). Looking back, I can see that most of that time I was guilty of purposely avoiding eye contact with those in need out of my own discomfort and my own inability to know what I could do. When we first started this project, the obvious goal for me was to help some of our town’s less fortunate members with some wholesome nourishment, but as we started to pass out the bags an entirely unexpected result began to unfold.
While nearly all the people were very appreciative of the food and supplies we offered, what became very clear to us was that the real gift we all received was a brief but meaningful connection. It made me realize that these people, who are normally somewhat “invisible” to me, are actually a part of our community. As they reached their hands out to take a bag from us, they often looked deeply into my family’s eyes, making a brief connection, and thanking each one of us personally. Normally I would have been uncomfortably looking away or avoiding eye contact, but this project transformed this time into a moment of real connection for each of us.
Giving is Good for Both the Recipient and the Giver
I am a very proud father of three. Of course I think my kids are the greatest (and they are!) but seeing them come together to help others really stands out as one of my proudest moments as their father. The degree of thoughtfulness, commitment, kindness, and love that they displayed simply blew me away.
This project really allowed them to each shine and grow in their own ways. As Debbie and I stepped back, my oldest, Layla, so naturally took the leadership role. She kept us on budget, guiding her younger siblings on what to include in the bags and setting up an efficient yet fun assembly line. What warmed my heart most was how she made sure that both her brother and sister felt included. Leo, my son, always outgoing, was constantly on the lookout for anyone in need who might benefit from a bag. Lastly, my youngest, Mia, who at times has been known to hide behind our legs, really came out of her shell. She looked each recipient in their eyes and spoke clearly as she made her offering. We watched our kids embrace their strengths, as well as step out of their comfort zones, to do something with love for someone else.
Giving is Contagious
Immediately after the 75th bag was given out, we all agreed that we should do even more next year—or maybe we could even do it a few times next year. Giving is contagious. When you see someone’s eyes brighten and their smiles widen, you naturally want to make more of that happen for more people. When we shared our post last year, many people told us how it inspired them to think of projects they were going to do as a family. Even studies have shown that giving provides a ripple effect, inspiring those who receive to become more generous.
This year we decided to photograph our family’s journey over the last several weeks and our daughter, Layla, helped us make the 3-minute video below (kids these days are way savvier than their parents 🙂 ). We hope that watching it warms your heart in the same way that doing it warmed ours.