Imagine a small dollhouse on a post next to a big pine tree in a suburban front yard. The walls are painted with a warm, inviting color, perhaps trimmed in white. There is a small shingled roof and double doors which open wide.
Now, imagine the little house is full of canned goods; peanut butter, toothpaste, foil and maybe a few pairs of warm socks or a scarf and a knit hat or two.
Imagine that little house is full of Christmas H.O.P.E. lasting all year long.
Recently, I read of a family who fell on hard times. Days away from homelessness, a small miracle appeared, a food box filled with holiday joy and much need nourishment. This family narrowly avoided living in the streets that year. Life improved for them and yet, they never forgot the gift they had received.
Grateful, they decided to “pay it forward” and built a “blessings box” posting it in their front yard.
At first, they were the ones who filled it with books, food, and small household items. Soon, others in the neighborhood both gave and received items. Many folks saved a few extra dollars at the end of the month; spending it to stock the little house on a post with dried goods like pasta and macaroni for families in need.
A small idea bloomed into a great blessing for this community.
The antidote for an often chaotic world is kindness and community. Since we all work towards building inclusive communities, let’s take the time to help our children find their path to giving this holiday season.
I can imagine many of you I have met at camp over the years, gathering with friends and neighbors with a cup of hot cocoa, roasting marshmallows over an open fire and singing Christmas carols. I envision a mom or a dad with some dollhouse kit assisting the neighborhood kids in building the house and I imagine our kids with disAbilities right alongside them painting the walls, gathering food and household items to place inside. I imagine the power of a community in action. More importantly, I see the power of community in action.
Above all, I see the gift of the gift. It is a special gift, and one our kids with special abilities want to learn.
So let’s shine the light on giving this year. Let’s ask our children “How do you want to give back to your community?”
Here are some ideas to get started:
- Make new friends at the animal shelter. Time is in short supply and so are some hugs for kitties and moments to walk or play ball with some puppies. Do a neighborhood drive to collect canned food for shelter animals. I saw a posting in Birmingham to volunteer at the McWane Science Center via VolunteerMatch.org
- Grab a paintbrush and paint an ugly or graffitied wall. Of course, you’ll need to ask for permission before proceeding. Help beautify your block!
- Have a yard party! Gather some friends and rake the leaves for a senior citizen, a young family, or a returning soldier,
- Double your Christmas goodies and share with local first responders, letter carriers, and police departments.
- Maybe someone in your family would like to help with costumes at a local Christmas performance.
Giving doesn’t always require money. It most often is best appreciated when people spend the time to care. We can make more money, but we can’t make more time, we can only use it more wisely.
Teaching our young people with disabilities to be givers and not just receivers is a lesson packed with empathetic focus. Giving teaches our families about empowerment, organization, kindness, and H.O.P.E….perhaps the best Christmas gift of all.