Early in my childhood I learned about the value of giving. I spent many Saturday afternoons in the basement of the Legion or Elks hall while my mom and other members of the ladies group prepared food to cater an event. I fondly recall the smell of turkey and sound of laughter as the ladies worked side by side preparing the banquet meal. The money raised would be used by the Legion Ladies or Catholic Women’s League. My dad often canvassed for the Heart and Stroke Foundation or any other number of worthy causes. I would go along for the walk and we would talk about the neighborhood or just enjoy being in the neighborhood together. Giving of your time or money was woven into the fabric of my upbringing.
As a result of my own parents, modeling a giving attitude has always been important to me as a community member and perhaps more importantly as a parent. I would like to share some of the things we have done over the years. Perhaps this will inspire you to consider some possibilities to contribute in ways you may not have thought of.
The holidays are a great place to start teaching children about giving. One of my family traditions is centered around the Salvation Army Kettles at Christmas. I have taught my children that any time you pass a kettle you must put in money. At Halloween, I encouraged my children to carry the UNICEF boxes as they went around gathering their goodies. One year, just before my oldest daughter’s 9th December birthday party, one of her classmates house was burned to the ground. Shea invited her whole class to a “surprise party”. She asked that all the classmates bring a new toy/game for their classmate instead of bringing something for her. We also invited each family to bring a bag of groceries or household goods to donate to the family. I spoke to the mom ahead of time to ensure this was something that she would approve of and she was very grateful.
Another opportunity to give includes the yearly visits of children coming to my door for any number of fundraising opportunities; Jump Rope for Heart, selling Beef Jerky or wrapping paper. Typically, I purchase something. If a group comes collecting bottles or food hamper donations I contribute. From sitting at one of the food hamper stations at the Fort McMurray food drive to dog walking there are many opportunities right in our own back yard.
One year in the early 1990’s, I taught a pair of twin boys. Their mother had recently abandoned the family and the father was clearly doing the best he could. It was getting closer to Christmas and questions to the boys indicated that they didn’t have any gifts under their tree or much food in their cupboards. There was no Santa’s Anonymous or food bank to rely upon. I took the father aside one day and asked if it would be ok if I gathered a Christmas hamper and some gifts for the boys. He said he would be grateful. I called a number of my friends and we each gathered some food and toys to give to this dad. Together the 10 of us came up with a reasonable amount of items to gift this man and his kids. Perhaps as a result of this modeling my two oldest children while attending Father Mercredi High School both became involved with Santa’s Anonymous. They spent time after school volunteering and weekends collecting food. Trent was part of the founding group of amazing high school students to create, gather and collect backpacks for the homeless.
I look for opportunities to contribute that won’t cost me financially. For example, every time I visit a hotel the “free” items come home with me: shampoo, hand cream, soap, tea and coffee packages. These useful items are accepted by the Center of Hope for use by their clients. Easy to collect and easy to contribute! Because I encourage my kids to look for opportunities to do what they can do in our community I wasn’t surprised when my youngest daughter told me she wanted to cut her hair very short. She had heard about “Locks for Love” and decided to donate her long hair to this program so that a child without hair would be able to have a wig made because of her donation.
Of course, there is the giving of your time. If you look for an opportunity to give of you time to a cause that you believe in or to a group that you want to support it will add value to your own life. For example, if you enjoy working with children there are a number of organizations right here in Fort McMurray that can use your valuable time. If you enjoy animals walk a dog for the SPCA. As my own kids went through various sports I volunteered on a variety of boards (always being careful to avoid the role of treasurer. It is important to recognize your weaknesses as well as your strengths). In the last 9 years in Fort McMurray I have been involved in McMann Youth and Family Services, School Parent Councils, Safe Grad, Leadership Wood Buffalo, United Way and several other local organizations/clubs/not for profit groups. Personal satisfaction, pride and lasting friendships have graced me as a result of my small but meaningful contributions.
Real magic occurs when you find something you enjoy doing and then give some of your time engaged in that activity. Involve your children, family or friends whenever possible. You may never know where your contribution of time or money has made a difference that can’t be measured.
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has. Margaret Mead