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How to Do Your Part in Your Home, in Your Community, and in the World
I know around this time of year it's easy to focus on your home, your family, your needs, and your gift desires.
The house needs to be cleaned, there are menus to be prepared, the kids will be off from school, and you’ve got tons of family coming in. You haven't even begun to buy Christmas gifts for everyone yet.
In all the hubbub of the holidays, it's easy to think of yourself and what YOU need to do. However, this is also the one time of year when others are most in need as well.
Many families don't have money to pay the bills, don't have jackets to keep them warm, don't have food to put in the table, and most certainly don't have money for Christmas gifts.
Families such as these are not limited to your city, your state, or even your country. There are millions of families all over the world that are in need, and every one of them, from your next door neighbors, to the starving children in third world countries, are all important.
I know what you must be thinking. You're either on the side of those that feel like they already tithe to their churches, give to their local charities, and donate their unwanted items and don’t need to do anything else, or you do everything you can every year to provide food, school supplies and toys to needy families and even sponsor a few children in other countries.
Sometimes it’s difficult to truly understand unless you’ve been there or you’ve been in that situation. I don’t believe that motives, intentions, or situations are always for use to question.
We all have our own convictions and beliefs about certain topics, and I certainly have mine. But either way, this doesn’t take away our responsibility to care for others when they are in need, especially when it involves children.
By taking a bigger part in helping those in need by taking action in your own home, in your community, and in the world we live in, not only do you feel a sense of accomplishment that you are doing your part, but you teach your children a good lesson as well.
Let’s look at some ways that you and your family can do your part to give to others around you.
In Your Home
There are so many things that you can do to serve people around you that need your help, without even leaving your home.
If you’re the kind of person that feels like you have no extra time to donate, no money send to sponsor a child or donate to a mission, not a problem. This option is perfect for you!
You can do many of these things with your children to teach them generosity, that giving is more important that getting, and that there are others in this world that need our help.
Kids are typically very egocentric, thinking the world revolves around them. This is a great way to expand their horizons and their perspectives.
Try some of these suggestions this season, and make it a repeat experience all year long.
- Donating clothes and toys. Each year, I bet you can find at least a box full of items that you no longer use. Shoes, shirts, pants, pajamas, dresses, shorts, belts, and ties tend to collect in our closets. My rule each year is that if we haven’t worn it or didn’t even know we had it, it needs to go. The same goes for your child’s toys, and possibly clothes that no longer fit them anymore. Take them to your local thrift store, or have them come and pick your stuff up.
- Donate food items. Just as our clothes can gather in our closets and get lost in the masses. I’m sure you can find a few non-perishable foods that you can donate to a food pantry. Somehow crazy food items like canned asparagus and powdered mashed potatoes can be found in our pantry every so often. It will never get eaten here. These are the items we like pulling out with all of our clothes and other items, and donating to a local food pantry so that those in need can have them instead.
What do you do to do your part?
- Collect backpacks and school supplies. Throughout the year, stores like Wal-Mart offer school supplies for super cheap, like 10 cents for spirals and 5 cents for pencils. This is a great time to spend a dollar or two, and buy much needed school supplies to give to children of families who can’t afford them. Just send them to school with your kids. Teachers have students every year that are greatly in need of these items. These same students likely don’t get breakfast each morning or have warm clothes for the winter. Send these things to your child’s school as well.
- Offer to babysit for a neighbor. Daycare and babysitting are expensive, especially for parents that are already tight on funds just to pay bills and put food on the table. You can do a huge good for those right around you by offering to babysit for free so that they can have a date night. You’ll never truly understand how grateful they are going to be!
- Mow the grass or clean up the yard for your neighbor. Sometimes we are so busy complaining about people that we don’t see the opportunity to help right in front of us. Maybe your neighbor can’t mow their lawn, trim their hedges, or pull their weeds because they aren’t able to, or they are overwhelmed. Do someone right next to you a favor and offer to help them out. If someone had offered to help me with my lawn in Houston when I was single, I would have done anything to say thank you!
- Offer to help a senior in your neighborhood. We had a loud “alarm” going off in our neighborhood for over a month every morning and it was driving us crazy. We tried to find it to make it stop and couldn’t. I finally called the police department, and they discovered that it was coming from the home of an elderly lady that couldn’t fix the problem and didn’t want to impose herself on her neighbors to ask for help. You never know when offering to put in a fan, change a smoke detector, change a light bulb, or anything else around the home for a senior in your neighborhood will make a world of difference in their (and your) lives.
In Your Community
If you are a little more ambitious, and want to do something more to help those in your neighborhood that need your help, there are tons of things that you can do! Let’s look at some of them.
Many of these are even great to get your kids involved in with you.
- Participate in Operation Santa Claus. This program is created to provide families in your community with food, clothes, and even toys during the holidays. They ask that you provide new items of any sort to the charity so that these items can be passed out to those who need them the most. Visit http://givetotheclaus.com/about to find out where to drop these items off.
- Cook a meal for someone. If you know of an individual or family who is sick, recovering from surgery, recently had a baby, etc., offer to make them dinner, babysit, do a load of laundry, or even do the dishes for them.
- Clean up trash at a park, beach, or river. This simple action is making the community a better place by making the world more beautiful, and a safer place for people and animals.
- Serve dinner to the needy. Many shelters and organizations set up meals for people and families that don’t have something to eat that day. Although many only do this around the holidays, so many more offer meals once a week or once a day.
- Volunteer your time. Organizations like Bountiful Baskets, Habitat for Humanity, the YMCA, and the Boys & Girls Club need individuals to come and pitch in to help pass out food, work on houses, play with children, spend time with seniors, etc. You never know, volunteering could be fun. I know from experience that it’s addictive. Visit www.redcross.org for more volunteer opportunities in your area.
- Visit kids in a local children’s hospital. When you’re sick, the last thing you want is to be alone. Parents of these children want to be with their children, but are busy with other family members, going to work to pay the bills, and trying to keep life normal for their other children. By visiting these kids, you are raising their spirits, increasing their chances of getting better, and giving them much needed company in the process.
- Visit seniors in a nursing home. Just as children in the hospital would love your company, when you are older, loneliness is just as painful. Many seniors in these places don’t have any other family members. They get to watch all of their friends getting to see loved ones while they go day after day without any company. Make someone’s life better by taking them flowers, a smile, or just your presence.
- Volunteer at your library or local school. Not only can you possibly have the opportunity to help a child learn how to read, you could help teachers with their class projects and crafts, read to classes, or any other fun activity you could imagine. Kids are great. Why deprive yourself of them!
- Work with local officials to paint over graffiti in your city. By doing this, you can make a difference not only in your neighborhood, and in your community, but on the city as a whole. It is well-known that graffiti brings down the value of a neighborhood, the schools, and even the homes in the area. Morale is lower in those places, there is more crime, people leave and move to better places, and new people don’t come in. Make your city better with just a little bit of effort on your part.
- If you see a person in poverty, help them. Buy him/her a meal, Give him/her a ride to a shelter. Listen to them tell you their stories. Not only will your actions bring the person a smile but it brings you a smile as well.
In the World
Poverty and families in need stretch much further than your neighborhood, your community, your city, state, or even country. The world is a much bigger place than you or I could possibly fathom.
If you’re like me and want to make a bigger difference in the world than any one of us can do right here at home, do it! There’s a humongous world out there that needs your help.
I realize that you’re just one person but even one simple action on your part could be something huge in another’s life.
- Write letters or create care packages for soldiers who are serving overseas. Many soldiers do not have families writing them, calling them, or even to go home to on leave. By writing a soldier, you are possibly giving him or her a reason to push forward, a reason to continue fighting, and a reason to stay alive. They are fighting for our freedoms and for the freedoms of those in other countries. Honor them by sending them something to make them smile. You can do this by simply visiting any one of these websites: www.anysoldier.com, www.give2thetroops.org, or www.soldiersangels.org.
- Participate in Samaritan’s Purse. This organization accepts shoe boxes stuffed with valuable items like toys, books, hygiene items, and simple school supplies around the holidays, and sends them to needy children all over the world. They even allow you to track your gift in its travels to see where it went and who it went to. This is great for kids to do during the holidays. Visit www.samaritanspurse.org to find out where to drop your donation.
- Sponsor a yard sale, with the proceeds going to a poverty ministry. To give even more, consider hosting an event like a bake sale, a yard sale, or even a car wash, and donating all of the proceeds to your favorite poverty ministry. By one simple action, and a weekend of memories, you can put food on the table for many families in another country.
- Donate to a mission. There are so many poverty missions all over the place, and even online, trying to help needy individuals and families all over the world. If you’d rather not try and raise money, but prefer to donate directly, all that’s needed is to choose one. Here is one website to get you on the right track: http://www.foodforthepoor.org
- Sponsor a child. This is one of my favorite options. For pennies on the dollar every month, you can essentially adopt a child from a needy family in another country in your family. You get to send them letters and pictures, get letters and pictures from them, and on top of that provide health care, food, schooling and supplies, and other valuable items to your adopted child. You get to see the benefits of your actions first hand. Visit one of these great websites to see your options and find out how to sponsor your own child: www.worldvision.org, www.feedthechildren.org, www.savethechildren.org/Sponsor
- Become a missionary. There are some individuals that are meant for so much more than simply donating clothes, food, or even money to help needy families. Maybe instead you feel led to build a school, build a church, build a hospital, or even spread the word in a foreign country. Wonderful! BY becoming a missionary for your local church or another ministry, you can truly have that hands-on experience and the knowledge that you are making the biggest difference you can.
Helping out those that need us should not just be a one-time occurrence that happens around the holidays. Families need homes, food, clothes, and other necessities all year long.
Obviously though, you have to start somewhere. Maybe you and the kids can start with donating old clothes and toys, donating a new toy to Operation Santa Claus, and packing a shoe box for a child in another country through Samaritan’s Purse.
Next, do it again and find a soldier to support, a neighbor to help, and food to donate to a shelter during the summer.
The more you do, and the more often you do it, it will just become second nature for your family to help others in need. And the things you do don’t have to be huge.
You child could offer to help another child with their homework at school, maybe you could help an elderly lady reach a can on a high shelf at the grocery store, or you can offer a hand to a neighbor carrying their groceries inside.
Every little bit helps!
For more information on ways that you can do your part, visit http://www.40daysintheword.com/site/provider/siteprovider/40ditw/pdf/Micah68.pdf.
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© 2013 Victoria Van Ness