Charity is something that has always been important to me. I've spent countless hours volunteering my time doing everything from acting as an interpreter in a doctor’s office, to playing with children at a women’s shelter, to teaching new immigrants English. When I didn’t have a lot to give financially I always had time that I could give.
Of course, once I had children, giving back became even more significant, and passing this on to my kids was essential.
The holidays are an especially important time for me to remind my children how fortunate we are. My kids get a lot. I mean a lot. They are surrounded by family who loves and spoils them, but I don’t want them to get caught up in the gift receiving end of the holidays. I want them to always remember that it is better to give than to receive.
I try my best to bring charity into the everyday routine of our lives.
We share toys, we share clothes, we share items that we no longer use but can be put to good use in a new home. We barely ever throw anything out. Unless it’s broken or damaged beyond repair, there is always a new home waiting. We always have a box or a bag in the house that is used to gather all clothing that we outgrow or no longer need. We keep collecting until we have a pile large enough to share with our local woman’s shelter or the Canadian Diabetes Association. The kids join us when we are bringing our items to our charity of choice. Now when something no longer fits they hand it over informing us it’s time to pass it on to another little boy or girl.
There are always so many events happening that kids can join in on, it’s just a matter of choosing an event that works. There are walks, runs, dance-a-thons, and bake sales just to name a few. The event that we have chosen to regularly participate in is Meagan’s Walk. It’s a walk that ends in a human hug around Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children and supports pediatric brain tumour research. Ending the walk hugging the hospital where we practically lived for six weeks after Mr. T was born seems like a perfect way to say thank you. Each year I cry, and each year both my kids explain to everyone they know that they are walking to say thank you to the hospital that saved us.
Every year for Christmas Santa leaves a surprise from Sick Kids Get Better Gifts in my stocking. It might be a sleeper chair for a parent room, a tiny little blood pressure monitor or a stocking for a child who will be waking up in the hospital Christmas morning. Santa knows that Sick Kids is close to my heart and he makes sure to bring an extra special gift to them for me. As we are opening our stockings we talk about how happy the hospital must be that they received this special gift given to them by Santa on our behalf. When the kids are gathering food to bring to school for the food drive we wonder what it must feel like to be hungry, we talk about what a food bank is and how important it is for us to donate food as often as we can. Both kids choose toys to bring to toy drives and this year we even each packed a shoebox to send overseas, the kids meticulously picking out each and every item that we packed.
Our giving always includes discussions surrounding what it means to give back. We remind ourselves that when we were in need people were there for us. When Mr. T. was a newborn having surgery at Sick Kids, strangers made him quilts, knit hats and booties and sent us warm messages letting us know that we weren’t alone. It meant the world to us. It is now our responsibility to give back whenever and however we can.
Donating doesn’t always involve large sums of money. It’s about giving what you can. That might be a few cans of food, a toy or even your time.
Eventually, when they are old enough I hope that we can volunteer our time together. I hope that by making giving back a part of our everyday life that it will just continue to come naturally to my kids. My wish is that my children learn the true joy of giving to someone else without expecting anything in return.