When my daughter, Chloe, was 3 years old, I watched her open birthday gift after birthday gift in the foam-core Princess castle I built for her party. Dolls, toys, houses, stuffed animals, etc. A lot of stuff. She didn’t really need all of that stuff, and quite frankly, she was becoming a bit spoiled, as she began to expect the latest toy.
So, before her next birthday arrived, I called around to a few organizations to see how I could best teach her about the need in Kansas City. I took her to the Hope House, a shelter for women and children. The people at the Hope House talked with her about their services and showed her a video that made her understand the hardship some kids must endure, through no fault of their own. Chloe decided to donate her birthday gifts from her next party to the Hope House. Through her experience at Hope House, she realized she would receive more joy by donating her gifts to those kids than she would from keeping them to herself. She was right, and she has donated her gifts to kids in need every year since. (She is now 19). Her brother, Spencer, also began donating birthday gifts to Children’s Mercy, after spending time decorating the hospital for Christmas and seeing the sick kids. He felt that his gifts would bring more joy to those kids than they would to him. He was right!
I believe it is so important to teach our kids to invest in the community. And they are the most authentic barometers! For example, for a couple years Spencer decided he would donate half of his birthday gifts. To me, this meant he understood the need, but he wasn’t completely convinced it would make him happier to donate them all. Afterall, birthday gifts are a BIG deal! They are longed for, awaited, and prized. To understand that giving them away could possibly bring more joy requires some real evaluation. So, I reviewed our community involvement together and realized that when he wasn’t regularly learning about the need in KC, he didn’t want to donate as much. Very much like an adult. So, he donated half of the gifts and I invited him to more opportunities. Last year was his 14th birthday and he asked his friends to bring things specifically for Children’s Mercy Hospital.
It is important to lead by example and donate time, talents and money to those organizations that make a positive impact by supporting those less fortunate. It is an investment in our community. It is important to share these experiences with our kids. I hold leadership positions on the Goodwill Board of Directors, am a member of the UWGKC Women United affinity organization, am a church and school volunteer and support various non-profit fundraising committees. I also enjoy giving my time and expertise to support the KC entrepreneurial tech start-up community. In all cases, my kids have participated in these organizations with me.
Through doing what I love and believe in, I hope I have taught my children how very important it is to help our community. So, give back in ways you are passionate about, and spread sunshine through your family and community!