I picked Stella up from school the other day and her toothless smile was shinin’ to beat the band. “I have a surprise to show you when we get home!” she squealed. Squirming like a worm out of mud in her booster seat, this gal was beaming with pride. I assumed it was because of a craft she had made for us, something like a hand-rolled candle or art for the walls. Not quite. Unable to contain her excitement, she burst out, “We made care packages today!” and pulled out a large stuffed sock from underneath her thick winter coat. Stell went on to tell me on our short drive home that her class had learned about people who don’t have homes, and how the winter season can be extra hard for them. These little care packages could maybe help in a small way, offering those who live without, some essentials to keep on hand. With tears welling up in my eyes, I asked her what all was in the care package she put together, and before sputtering through the laundry list of goods, she said first,
“A note to brighten their day, because we love no matter what.”
YES. We love no matter what. This little girl knows and feels and radiates the good stuff, and it’s beyond refreshing. She got in the car more joyful than when she had made anything for herself, for us, or for her friends. This gift of care was for someone she didn’t know, someone who she learned didn’t have a warm home like ours or the basic needs such as running water or a warm bed. I mentioned a few days ago that our family practices Waldorf methods both at home and at school, and while limiting the barrage of news media and an excess of mindless screen time at home is part of this mindful curriculum, showing our kids how to care for others has little to do with that. Honoring values of truth, beauty, goodness are the bedrock of what we practice at home, and that means demonstrating care for others in a meaningful way.
I believe there are ways we as parents can embed values of empathy, kindness, and warmth into the foundation of our family values, and it doesn’t have to come about by having adult conversations with them before they’re ready. And following our intuition is the only way we’ll know when that time is. No one should tell you how or when to teach these things to your little ones, but I think having a conversation about it is helpful.
Making and delivering this care package, while talking about those who have less and how to help them, is just one way we as a family can bridge the gap between empathy and awareness. Reading books about serving others, along with the beauty of compassion is important too, but one of the most rewarding and empowering things we can do for our children is to show them by example how to care for others in need who are less privileged that we are.
So this weekend it’s our goal to deliver this little package in the city. The first thing they’ll see when they open it will be her hand written note with a rainbow, a heart, and a flower. I want to teach her (and her brothers) that these small acts of kindness are not small at all; they send ripples of love out into the world, and have the ability to affect others in ways we can’t even imagine. I want to teach her to never underestimate the power of one-on-one care, of hand-written notes, and how opening our hearts to serve others is one of most beautiful ways we can use the gifts God gave us. If you’d like to make a care package for the homeless, here’s what you’ll need to gather:
- A large pair of tall socks (one for the package itself, another rolled up inside)
- Food that cannot spoil like nuts, packaged meats and cheese
- A small bottle of water
- Toothbrush and toothpaste
- Gold Bond body powder
- Any other essential toiletries you can stuff in there
- A note, to brighten their day
I hope it’s alright I continue to talk about serving here. It’s something as a mother I am working on, and putting our stories into this space just feels right. Have you talked with your children about the homeless before? Have you served in a soup kitchen with your kids before? I grew up doing that around the holidays and want to make that more a part of how we as a family can serve our community together.
S - I think this is my favorite post and I feel like I need to make some of these with the kids soon! There is an explosion of homeless people in recent years where we live and the kids have had lots of questions about the makeshift tent communities in the city.
Thanks for sharing! Also,…. now I’m craving jerky and cheese!
Rhondajean - What a wonderful post. It’s such an important thing for our children – this guidance towards compassion and kindness. I love your daughter’s care package, especially her note “because we love no matter what”. It’s such a powerful message – to give and receive.
When I managed a neighbourhood centre and had our free Christmas BBQ lunch for everyone who wanted to come along, my sons (both fine dining chefs) and other volunteers came in to help with the cooking. We generally catered for 400-500 people. It was quite the event and we were worn out at the end of the, but we all went home smiling and satisfied.
Thank you for sharing this lovely part of your family life.
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Taylor - Socks are a great gift idea. Last week, a man approached us asking for some change for a cup of coffee. We are a coffee-loving house. It was sweet and not surprising when my two-year-old urgently repeated, “Mom, the man needs coffee!”
Kristin - Please key sharing your thoughts on anything here! We’re all ready to find out what you have to say on different topics – not just topics we decide are important ❤️ Love this idea from school! Last year we brought sandwiches and kids downtown to find someone who was homeless and give them lunch – as it turns out it’s really hard to find anyone outside a shelter unless it’s before/after work (rush hour) – we had almost given up and were going to drop them off at a nearby church when we ran into some folks happy to get a free lunch – always an adventure!