It began with a cookie. Actually it was more like a few dozen cookies.
Each year my husband and I host friends at our home for a sugar fest of sorts. I consider it the calm amidst the holiday chaos. We call it a “Cookie Party”, but really it is just an excuse to gather, let the kids run wild and the grownups get in the ‘spirits’. The best part… you leave with a gazillion cookies and sweets you pretty much didn’t have to bake.
“Parents can only give good advice or put them on the right paths, but the final forming of a person’s character lies in their own hands.” ~Anne FrankNot all that original of an idea, I know. Other host parties like this. Our twist on this is that we ask guests to bring along a nonperishable food item, unused set of mittens, hat or scarf, that we then take to a local shelter. After all, ‘tis the season of giving.
The first party was four years ago. That year Em and Pete were four and six years old. They got such a huge thrill out of taking the donations to the shelter that they asked to go back the next day. I explained, with a melting heart and a smile, that we couldn’t have a party everyday.
…Yeah, that didn’t go over well.
There were lots of questions: Why? How come? Who is going to get dinner for those kids tomorrow if we don’t? What about when they go to school, do they get snack? I didn’t have answers. These are questions even we adults struggle with, don’t we?
I was brokenhearted. For my children, who wanted so much to help. For those mothers at the shelter who had to face questions even harder from their children. For my mother who tucked her small children in bed, and went hungry herself — a fact I didn’t learn until I was grown.
How would I answer their questions? The only thing I could think to do was equip them with the ability to make some sort of difference. To be honest, it started out as an effort to distract them. I thought they’d lose interest after a few days and I’d be off the hook until the next Cookie Party.
the charity piggy bank challenge
My solution? A bowling pin. To be more precise, it was a piggy bank shaped like a bowling pin. I encouraged them to plop in all the change they found hiding in under the sofa cushions, on bookshelves, in Daddy’s jeans and on walks. Deemed it the “Charity Piggy Bank,”we’d save all year. When the next Cookie Party rolled around we’d head to the CoinStar, cash in the coins and they could go shopping for the shelter.
In the first few days they were toddling human metal detectors. They even found Pesta coins from the years I lived in Spain… twenty plus years ago! I was sure they’d lose interest soon. By late November we had to get a second bank. On cash-out day they racked up over $65.
The best part was watching them shop for the items they wanted to give to the children at the shelter.
Each year since, with great pomp, they have chosen a new bank. There is never any spare change in this house, in our cars and rarely in my purse. Their goal is to always beat the previous year’s total, and they do.
At the shelter they tell me that I should be proud that I’m raising them to be the sort of people that give back. I smile, nod and say thank you. The truth is, I can’t claim the credit here. I may have given them the idea, but it takes dedication to do something like this, and that is all them.
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