Recently, an article I wrote for Parent.co struck a chord with readers the world over. The post – The Two Words That Can Transform Your Parenting – hinged on the idea that our everyday routines are, in fact, privileges. The two words the headline refers to are “get to,” indicating that our chores are actually opportunities. Like the article says, “The very fact that we have beds to make, laundry to tackle, lunches to pack, and dinners to serve is a privilege that millions don’t have. Our normal is someone else’s dream. The fact that we are doing most of this for people we love is the biggest “get to” of all.” Thousands shared and liked the post on social media. But there may be more we can do. Rather than stop at acknowledging that our normal is someone else’s dream, we can take a few simple steps to make a difference right where we are. Maybe this summer your family can start a new tradition of giving. Here are some ideas to help get you started:
Gift bags for the homeless
When I first moved to the U.S. as an immigrant from India, there was something that struck me – there were hardly any homeless folks on the streets, at least as compared to India. The possibility of doing something personal for them became real. A little online research and we chanced upon the idea of gift bags. This is a great project for the kids and you to do together. Buy a handful of paper bags and have the children decorate them any way they’d like. Make a list of five items that a person on the street corner might need. Some ideas include candy, dehydrated soup, jerky, toothpaste, mint, bubblegum, a card of encouragement, hand cream, and socks. Now hit the grocery store and let the kids call the shots. Fill the paper bags, tie them with a bow, and give one to the next homeless person you see as a family. Every time we did this as a family, I knew instantly that that small act went a long way not just to meet physical needs but also to touch someone’s heart. You’re teaching your kids not to judge. You’re teaching them empathy. And you’re blessing someone whose story you may never know.
Share your produce
Facebook is full of it. I’m talking pictures of backyard produce that crop up on newsfeeds this time of the year. The reddest tomatoes, the juiciest strawberries, blackberries and cucumbers and okra and all the fresh, organic produce that you planted in the spring. But you know what’s going to make you even happier than your harvest? Sharing it with your neighbors. Let the kids get their hands dirty and have them harvest the produce. Add a note and walk it down to the neighbors. It’s about time you all came out of winter hibernation anyway.
Plan a playdate
Summer playdates are low pressure. They involve backyards and splash pads, parks, water fountains and berry picking. Your house can look like a hurricane hit it – and no one’s the wiser. That’s why summers are the perfect time to reach out to new friends. Maybe the shy immigrant in your neighborhood who smiles as you walk by. Even if your lives are different, there’s a shared camaraderie in watching your kids climb the monkey bars in the park.
Summer is the perfect time for the family to volunteer together. Decide as a family if you prefer a one-time commitment or an ongoing project as part of your family’s routine. Some options include a visit to the animal shelter, participating in a walkathon for a cause that your family supports, or collecting books for the pediatric wing of your hospital. Ongoing projects could be visiting seniors at a nursing home, planting bulbs in a community garden, or restocking a food pantry. Make sure the assignment fits their little personalities, depending on whether they love to chat, have a gift for art, or like to be outdoors. Websites like Volunteer Match and Hands on Network list volunteer opportunities according to city and age preferences.
Thank those in service
If you have a kid who loves all anything fireman-related, this is the perfect time to take some homemade cookies down to the fire station. Maybe arrange for your playgroup to go over for a fire station tour and find out beforehand what the firemen would prefer. (Surprise! Surprise! It may not be donuts and coffee.) Help your child write a letter of thanks to servicemen and women who are overseas. A simple card of encouragement could lift the spirits of someone on the frontlines. Sites like Operation Gratitude and Soldiers’ Angels walk you through the process of sending letters and care packages to those who serve the country. These are just little steps. But they go a long way in making a difference. And, summer or not, kindness is always in season.