June 29, 2009

5 Ways to Engage Your Kids in Grateful Giving ~ via LaSara Firefox.

Five Ways to Engage Your Kids
in Grateful Giving

by LaSara Firefox, MPNLP

Even when funds are tight, giving reminds us of how much we have, and how fortunate we are.

While coming face to face with money-problems can be a challenging experience, being able to do something about it is a saving grace. This sense of empowerment is key to facing the global situation of “have and have-not” with compassion instead of fear.

The power to create solutions, even in small ways, is both a learning opportunity, and a healing act that serves both giver and receiver. Generosity is a balm that soothes the savage soul.

With our nation in the grasp of some hard financial times, many of us are holding back on the consumptive aspects of life. What better way than giving, to remind us what we’ve got?

1. Cull/weed household belongings and take them to the local shelter or women’s center.
An easy starting point is to cull or weed your household goods. While you’re at it, you can suggest that your kids do the same, and have them decide what they’re willing to part with to help a kid in need.

Many shelters will take used toys, as well as clothes. Call your local shelter and see what they need, and what they’re willing to take. If you’re flush you can throw in some new items like toiletries and such. I am sure the shelter will be grateful.

If your kids are ready for the experience, they may want to participate in the delivery of items, too. My older daughter who’s 11 asked me to bring her with on the next drop off that we do.

2. Host a Potlatch and take all left-over items to the charity or service of your choice.
The potlatch ceremony is also called a give-away. Potlatch comes from the indigenous people of the Pacific Northwest coastline. In a potlatch, you give away your belongings as a celebration of your abundance.

In north-western native culture, the potlatch consisted of every home in the village putting belongings outside for the the taking. The one who gave the most, as opposed to the family who HAD the most, gained the highest status.

In native culture, this ceremony was undertaken for many reasons. All of them had to do with the redistribution of wealth. Wealth was not only measured in belongings, though. Not everyone in the community had material possessions to offer, and some offered dances or songs instead. These offerings were just as valued.

Invite your friends to bring belongings to offer, and to take what they need from what others are giving away.

In addition to being an achingly beautiful traditional ceremony, this is a great way to reduce your carbon footprint. A give-away is a way to reduce waste, clean out storage and closets, and it saves each participant the money, time, and by-product of a shopping trip, by way of new-to-them belongings.

At the end of the potlatch, invite your friends to leave all extra items, and take them to your local shelter or favorite charity.

3. Help your kid come up with ways to help humanity.

Food drives, clothing drives, penny drives, quilt drives, coat drives, and more. There are so many ways to help. What are some creative ways your child can come up with to gather resources together and offer them to those less-fortunate?

For maximum impact on your kids sense of service, allow him or her to offer ideas, and do your best to support them. The more empowered your kid is to participate in grateful giving, the more organic and integrated the experience becomes.

Recently, my 11 year old decided to bring her change jar – a huge pickle jar with a good start on coins – to her classroom for a change drive. It was fully her idea, start to finish.

She wasn’t sure where the coins would go, once the jar is full. With a little encouragement from me, she decided that her classmates will all bring suggestions of different local charities or services, and the class as a whole will decide together where the money will go.

I suggested that she choose the parameters; local, national, international? And the other guidelines. A charity, a service, a fund? Buy items with the money and give them directly to the shelter? There are many options.

The by-product of this course of action is that my daughter and her classmates will research the local charities and services, and learn about the network of support that one can plug into to offer service.

4. Offer service at your local soup kitchen.

Our local soup kitchen offers a family lunch service before the general lunch service. While the general service might be a little risky to take kids to, the family service is a great way for kids to come face to face with those they are helping.

Ask the kitchen if you can bring a dish, or home made cookies or something easy. Your child’s sense of accomplishment and generosity will be even larger if they have had a hand in creating the food they’re offering out.

5. Want to make it international, yet very personal? Microfinancing is a great option!
Microfinancing is a great way to involve your family in the international picture of wealth distribution, resources, and generosity. Getting into microfinancing is a great opportunity to talk to your kids about currencies, and how an american dollar goes a lot farther in a third-world country.

It’s also a great opportunity to illustrate the dire financial conditions in other countries, while still illustrating the fact that we are not powerless to create change.

Your family is unlikely to be able to fund an ecologically sound start-up for a poverty stricken American family. But, for example, $150 goes a long way in the Philippines. The listing below is from Kiva.org:

“Vicenta Duron is 52 years old … She tills a small parcel of land, which she inherited from her father. Her life is in farming and she loves growing crops, especially rice. …Vicenta needs a loan of $125 to purchase sacks of certified seed and fertilizers. She also plans to open a store where she can sell her farm produce, and increase her profits to support her family.”
Kiva.org loan request

Kiva.org is designed so you can choose the project you most want to fund. And, you can make a loan of any amount and contribute to a larger fund, or choose a smaller one and make the whole loan yourselves.

For information on other microfinancing options, check out microfinancegateway.org.

“LaSara FireFox is a genius! You couldn’t ask for a better guide to take you on this emboldening adventure.”
-Ariel Gore, author of The Hip Mama Survival Guide, The Mother Trip, and more

Firefox is an author, coach, educator, and speaker. Her latest project Gratitude Games (http://www.gratitudegames.com), is a fun and easy way to introduce gratitude into your life and the life of your family. LaSara knows the value of regular gratitude practice first-hand, and has assigned gratitude practice as an “action step” – coach-speak for homework – to hundreds of clients, and seen amazing results.

As a coach, seminar designer, and facilitator, LaSara helps her clients to find balance in their lives, and alignment with their personal and family-held values.

LaSara is a happily married momma of two daughters. She’s also a published author (Sexy Witch – self-help/nonfiction, Llewellyn, 2005). Sexy Witch was published in English and internationally distributed in 2005, an has been reviewed in twelve languages (at last count). Sexy Witch has been translated into three additional languages.

Find out more at lasarafirefox.com.

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