Nov.22nd is National Family Volunteer Day
By Blythe Clifford, Co-Founder Start a Snowball
It’s not too late to plan to incorporate community service into your family’s plans for this Thanksgiving season. It could be the most important thing you do this year.
A recent article by David Crary published in the Associated Press indicated that Americans who earned $200,000 or more reduced the share of their income they gave to charity by 4.6 percent from 2006 to 2012. Those earning less than $100,000 donated 4.5 percent more of their income. (Read the full article HERE.)
In other words, the wealthy are giving less to charity while the middle and lower income families are giving more. It’s the modern day version of the parable of the widow. You know, the story in the Bible of the widow who gives all she has to the Church. I was saddened to hear the news in the article about the decline in giving, particularly by the wealthiest among us, but I wasn’t surprised. I’ve experienced this first hand. So have my children.
Two years ago, my oldest son heard about a program at his school called BackPack Buddies. He heard they needed food donations to send home with kids from food insecure homes on the weekends. As we sat and talked about our plans for Spring Break (and how excited we were that they had 9 days off), my son was suddenly panic stricken. He said there was no way that one backpack of food was enough to keep those kids full for 9 days. I asked him what he wanted to do about it. He said he wanted to get food donations for them. So, he made and executed a plan to collect food donations for BackPack Buddies. Part of that plan was to stand outside of a grocery store and ask for people to shop for certain needed items and drop them back off with him on their way out. My shy son mustered the courage to ask every person that walked by to please donate food. We watched as people rushed by him, often not even taking the time to listen to him. He began to get discouraged, but we told him to stick with it. Eventually, he began to get a fair number of donations.
At one point, a nicely dressed young man zoomed into the parking lot of the grocery store in his fancy convertible. He brushed passed my son, saying he didn’t have any money to give him. A few minutes later, he came back out with his arms full of expensive beer. My son asked me how he had money for all of those things: clothes, car and alcohol, but not even a penny for kids who needed it. We tried to explain that perhaps he had already donated plenty to charity, knowing in our hearts that probably wasn’t true. Toward the end of the day, a man approached my son’s table. We had seen him get off the bus at the nearby stop. He was wearing tattered clothes and his shoes had holes in them. He approached us and in broken English said: “I come here from Africa. I know what it is to be hungry.” He opened his worn wallet and pulled out the only thing left – a one dollar bill. He handed it to my son. He, like the widow, gave everything he had. It was a moment that none of us will ever forget. What a lesson we all learned that day. We were forever changed in how we viewed our own level of giving.
This wasn’t an isolated event, though. My son had another food drive this past Spring. This year, he had people collecting donations at 4 area grocery stores. I’m sure it won’t surprise you to hear that the grocery stores that collected the most amount of food were located in the lower income neighborhoods. The grocery store located in the most affluent neighborhood collected the least amount of donations and it was far less than the amount collected at the other stores. When we polled volunteers on what was the most meaningful part of participating in the food drive, they said they were surprised that the people who appeared to have the least gave the most. As people approached the table to turn in food donations, volunteers reported to us that many of the people who gave the most food said: “I was saved by a program like this when I was kid. Thanks for helping this program.” People who know what it is like to be hungry, to be homeless, and to need help are more likely to give. But, it doesn’t have to be that way. Our volunteers said that the experience of volunteering at the food drive made them reevaluate their giving. Witnessing the parable of the widow first hand had quite an impact on everyone. Volunteering is a great way to do good. It’s also a great way to teach your children empathy and compassion. Children learn by doing. Children who volunteer with their parents are more likely to stay engaged in helping their communities as adults. Make plans today to engage your family in some type of community service. It doesn’t have to be a big food drive. There are hundreds of ways that you can participate in Family Volunteer Day.
Click here for more ideas on how to get involved on Family Volunteer Day.