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Tis the season to be mindful

Tis the season to be mindful

October 18, 2006

Why yes, I did just steal that title from Mir. But it seems only fair since I am mentioning her awesome post today.

She gave everyone a challenge, to pick a charity and volunteer at least one day between now and Christmas. It sounds easy enough doesn’t it? But how many of us will do something? And just how many of us will sit back and hand out excuses instead? I include myself in this. If there were a prize for good intentions, you know other than paving the road to Hell, I’d have it.

And so I am going to take up this challenge. I am not sure what exactly I am going to do yet. I do know that I want to include the children in this endeavor.

My children are growing up privileged in a way that I wasn’t as a child. It is something that they take for granted.

And yet I want to teach them that with privilege comes responsibility. And I am not talking about money, giving money is easy. And while it is a good thing, charities always need money, it is also an easy cop out. Giving of yourself is more important. Giving of your time, your spirit, your energy. Teaching my children that everyone is worthy of our time. And that it is infinitely more fulfilling to give a part of yourself than the detached act of writing a check.

And so this holiday season, while we all run around buying presents, decorating our homes, planning our meals, remember that the season to be mindful is all year long. But what better time to start than right now.

Be mindful. You cannot get all worked up over everything being “just perfect” when your focus is on giving of yourself rather than on stuff. How will you help others this year?

What will you do?

Posted by Chris @ 8:52 am  

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  1. Gwen says:

    I am volunteering at an event that benefits Shriner’s Hospitals.

  2. Katie says:

    I usually donate my time to make quilts for Project Linus and knit chemo caps for local hospitals. My Girl Scout troop is buying and wrapping gifts for children of domestic violence victims this Christmas.

    I will have to think about something more I can do, thanks for the reminder.

  3. swampwitch says:

    What a wonderful post. We usually contact the schools to locate families who need groceries for Thanksgiving and Christmas, then deliver them to the houses. I especially remember one grandmother who was raising 5 grandchildren, ages 4 - 10. By the time I had returned inside with the second arm load of sacks, they had found the cookies and were devouring them. She said they had never had Pepperidge Farm cookies before.

  4. guinness girl says:

    This is a great idea! And, lucky for me, I already have plans to volunteer this Saturday for Philadelphia Cares Day. I’m helping to paint & clean up a school in an underprivileged area.

  5. robiewankenobie says:

    i wanted to mention that some charities prefer that you NOT do volunteer work during the holidays, so you might want to ask them what they’d prefer.

  6. Playdate Susan says:

    I just love you so much. And Mir, too.

    Perhaps I should send you both cookies every day for the next few months?

  7. Jen says:

    I’ll be working with Rebuilding Together Philadelphia, preparing to rebuild approximately 60 houses this year. Check out http://www.rebuildingtogether.org to find an affiliate near you. Some groups need office support, including website and mailing list help. Not as glamorous and the painting and hammer and nails stuff, but ultimately it’s just as helpful to the homeowners that benefit from our work.

    I’m also hoping to talk my siblings into dropping the family pollyanna in favor of a group contribution, to honor my parents. We have enough stuff!

  8. Cakes says:

    Yay! An internet theme for Family Volunteering!

    FYI~Coincidentally, I just added a list of family friendly volunteer resources on my blog.

    Also the book “The Busy Family’s Guide to Volunteering” by Jenny Friedman is very inspiring.

  9. T in HD says:

    Does charitable work done from home count or does it have to be done outside the home? I’m pretty stranded without transportation but I’m betting I could find time for a project I could work on at home. Uh, any ideas on what I could do from home?

  10. Shelly says:

    Our family does a Secret Santa thing called the 12 Days of Christmas in December. We also help our Church provide Christmas for Children in Foster Homes. We chose boys/girls close to our own boys ages and we take them shopping for that child. Usually they have had to earn the money to do this. It is a very solem event and it is amazing how loving and generous the boys are for their child. It is a touching experience each year.

  11. Susan says:

    I loved this post and Mir’s.

    I co-chair our base’s Local Federal Coordinating Committee which runs the Combined Federal Campaign (http://www.opm.gov/cfc/) each year. We work hard year-round to increase knowledge & enthusiasm about the campaign, in hopes of collecting as many donations as we can.

    (I also contribute financially to quite a few causes.)

    I’d like to find something we can do together as a family this year, though.

  12. Daisy says:

    This is wonderful concept that could spread through the blogosphere. We ring bells for the Salvation Army every season, and I usually contribute to an adopt-a-family through my workplace. Whenever the family has a child similar in age to my own, I ask mine to help me do the shopping. That way, i know what’s “cool”.
    You and Mir are definitely “cool” in my book.

  13. Heather says:

    This is great, it has made me remember that I had great experiences as an older teen. We made lunch sacks on Christmas morning and took them into downtown L.A. and gave them out to the homeless. What a humbling experience. It gave me a different perspective on the true meaning of Christmas. Now 13 years later I need to come up with something similar to help my children grasp the true meaning of Christmas. Thanks for the great post!!!

  14. Bryanne Mayhew says:

    I’m volunteering with the USO stuffing care packages for overseas troops.

  15. ek says:

    I teach my kids to be mindful of those less fortunate, and to learn/know - that wants and needs are two different things. They are growing up in a community that for the most part is affluent, and see friends/neighbors with sundries of all sorts from the higher price ranges. We hear non-stop “but so and so has one.” ::sigh:: It is a daily challenge.

    I also (and I am not saying anyone else should be this way) yearn to teach them that what we do for others can be done anonymously. That we do not need accolades for doing things we should do JUST because we are all in this together. I have a real hard time within my self
    in doing, happily, for others, but really dislike public praise for it. I really wish I could do most things invisibly ;-)

    With bags on our heads - my kids and I serve and clean-up once a month at a local church’s community dinners. ;-)

    Wonderful post!

  16. Izzy says:

    I have attempted, in years past, to work at a local charity’s collection center but it has never worked out so we have always ended up just giving them food, gifts and money during the holidays. I am hoping, since P is not a breastfeeding infant anymore, that I can go there and work a day or two and that I might be allowed to bring my older child with me. I think seeing the streams of cars that come and go all day bringing things for the needy will help her to understand that while we live a fairly modest middle class life, we are extremely fortunate in numerous ways. It’s not that I haven’t TOLD her this plenty of times already; I just think showing her will resonate. Plus…she’ll think it’s cool!

  17. jessica says:

    think about The Box Project - this is something you do once a month - a box of stuff to a family in the US in need. I don’t have the web address handy, but you could google it…..

  18. Meegan says:

    It’s not a charity but i volunteer each week at a nursing home. While it’s hard to endure the smell and the mentally impaired screaming profanities at you it is also a great time. I call Bingo every Saturday and then just spend time with the residents. I volunteer because of a class i’m taking for my soical work major so i don’t bring my daughter along but plan to take her with me to visit when i’m done with my class at the end of the semester. I think the residents would love to have children around especially those without family nearby. You and your children could learn so much from the elderly; i know i have. :) They have so much to offer. Just a suggestion because no matter where you volunteer it will be appreciated.

  19. luck o' the irish says:

    I volunteer at the SPCA in my county and will be helping out with their holiday events to raise $$$.

  20. Jill A. says:

    DH and I started foster parent training — so we’re giving 27 hrs between now and the end of the year to get certified. I also give 2 hrs/wk to my kids school and cook a meal once/month for a local shelter but I REALLY need to volunteer for something WITH my kids. We used to stock a food pantry once/month for a church (load the stuff from church, drive it to pantry & unload — good for kids to do) but have gotten away from it. Maybe I need to get back to that…..or something else that’s do-able with the kidlets. Thanks for the nudge in the right direction.

    Oh….and I echo EK’s comment above about anonymous charity. Doing/giving because it feels good to ME (without needing notice or praise from others)is enough.

  21. Michelle says:

    Thanks for reminding me so early in the season. As it gets closer to Christmas I get busier and busier until it’s harder to make time for the important things.

  22. InterstellarLass says:

    No one has mentioned it here, but anyone looking for volunteer opportunities can go to http://www.volunteermatch.org/. Their advanced search will allow you to look for kid-friendly volunteer opportunties. I’ve found opportunities through them before, and we’ll be finding something through them that’s kid-friendly.

  23. carrien says:

    We’re a little extreme in that we don’t do a traditional Christmas. The Quasi Jewish roots and all help with that we get a lot of other holidays. But we do make a point at Christmas of finding people to help and ways to take care of them. My kids get Christmas presents from their Grandma in the form of a little bit of cash that they need to look around and find a way to use it to help someone in need. It’s not a lot, so they need to be creative. We write to her after and tell her what they chose to do, she’s keeping it all in a book for when they grow up. For the extended family members who are really attached to Christmas gifts we have found that the World Vision gift catolog is a great way of telling them we are thinking of them, while helping them to be mindful and helping someone else who needs it. We also have often invited others to share in our turkey dinner who may not otherwise get one, or who are very lonely and far from family.

  24. Amah says:

    I volunteer on a regular basis - I have a sibling group of 4 in my home as foster children. For the holidays I will take them to activities I wouldn’t normally go to - Children’s Christmas Parties etc. I will cook a larger Thanksgiving Dinner than just my DH and I will eat. I will sort for age “appropriatness”, organize, and wrap the items donated thru one of the avenues (mentioned above) that are brought to us for them - and fill in the items that are missing - batteries, etc - I will enjoy watching thier faces while they have the 1st Christmas Season that is complete with Religion, Santa, Tree, Gifts, and GOOD holiday spirit!! And I will help them to write (draw) Thank You’s to the org’s. I do so love to watch thier 1st’s. And I will miss my own Daughter and all 7 Grandchildren like mad!!!

  25. Amah says:

    Oh, and I forgot, the children (the 3 that aren’t babies) have picked out items for their “shoeboxes” donated thru our Church. http://www.samaritanspurse.org/OCC Their Sunday School Classes started this 2 weeks ago. We have the boxes almost ready to go!!

  26. peepnroosmom says:

    Thanks for the great post.
    I seem to be one of the ones running around buying, buying buying then not having enough money to finish, then worrying about what I have not bought. If I would just sit still and realize that we all have enough stuff. It makes me crazy.
    We do, however, do the Angel Tree which is gifts for kids whose parents are in jail. And we do the Shoebox thing every year.

  27. Cheryl says:

    My family saves change in a jar all year and at Christmas we get the name of a family that needs help from our priest and we do Christmas for them.

    We’re all involved in saving the change and we all go shopping for the family.

  28. Cheryl says:

    As our kids were growing up the four of us volunteered at the local food bank sorting food. It would usually work out to be one shift per month.

    Our community has major food drives and distributes holiday baskets for both Thanksgiving and Christmas–we would participate in those also. The whole community would get involved–all the schools have food drives and make contests out of it–with different grades in the high school competing to collect the largest number of items.

    All different groups participate in making the baskets and distributing them–scouts, sports teams.

    I’m sure you could find things like that in your area.

  29. kathy says:

    I’m currently in an area where 3 seperate Amish families lost the husband/father. We were in a store today highly frequented by Amish and Mennonites and I saw a Amish-dressed woman in black with a little boy. I arranged with the clerks (Mennonites) to pay her grocery bill annonymous. I hope she wasn’t embarrassed. Even if she isn’t a widow, she has lost someone close to her in the past year. Stuff like this is really easy to do and IMO it is giving that really works; the people definitely need the stuff they’re getting. YOu can do it at gas stations and toll booths too.

  30. Christina says:

    We’re taking up Mir’s suggestion to do Operation Christmas Child and each child in our home will be helping me make a Christmas shoebox for another child. They are still too little to really volunteer a day with me, so I usually use a free day to sort food at the Union Mission for their Christmas food drive.

  31. Mom101 says:

    Good for her and good for you. I’ll have to think about it but there are plenty of opportunities for do-gooding around New York, that’s for sure.

  32. daring one says:

    Some of my best memories growing up were giving service with my parents. I keep thinking I’ll teach them later but why not start now. Thanks to both of you.

  33. ek says:

    Oh, and just inviting someone to dinner who might not have somewhere to be/go during the holidays - for whatever reason.

    I know I appreciated this when people invited me in the past…

  34. kalisah says:


  35. Gillian says:

    My favorite thing we ever did was when I called the Salvation Army and asked to create gift packs for a couple of Elders. They gave us sizes and some tips and noted one lady was blind. My daughter was a genius at coming up with gifts that would be best for a sightless grandmother. She bought scented soaps and beautiful shaped wooden beads on a necklace and a lacy satiny gown and robe set and, bless her loving heart, chocolates. It is a lonely time for many of our seniors and they often get passed by because the kids are so important. We got a lot of joy out of it.