A little less than a year ago, we started a family project called “The Blessing Jar”. The idea behind it came from my oldest son’s desire to give change to people without money. We decided to get a jar, start collecting change, and then give it away. You can read my initial post about this by clicking on this link, The Blessing Jar.
Throughout the year, I didn’t put any pressure on the kids to donate to the jar. If they found, earned, or were given money, I asked them, “What do you want to do with it?” I was surprised how often they wanted to throw it in the jar.
Last weekend, we decided it was time to take our jar of change, get it counted up, and donate it. The jar was not full, but it seemed appropriate for us to do something like this the weekend before we celebrate Thanksgiving.
After all, our family has so much to be thankful for.
We have a warm home, food to eat, and each other. What more could we ask for?
I started talking to my kids the week before about what to do with the money. We talked about different options, and they both kept going back to giving money to people who do not have any food. As a matter of fact, earlier in the week during an outing to the local mall, my daughter grabbed a handful of change and started sprinting towards the guy ringing the Salvation Army Bell. She said, “Mommy, he’s ringing the bell. That means he’s hungry.” She quickly put money in the kettle. I later explained that the young man was helping others who are hungry by ringing the bell.
We decided that the money would go to a local group called “The Gathering Tree”. This group, started by a doctor and his wife, feeds the homeless in our community, and is a very grass-roots effort with volunteers cooking the food, serving it, and offering support to those who show up. A friend of mine is very involved with the group, and has witnessed the heart-breaking stories of many of the souls who walk through the doors.
Thankfully, there are lots of organizations in our community that help out the homeless and down-trodden. We decided on this group because it is solely a volunteer-based organization. I have also heard that the volunteers do not ask questions, or judge whoever walks in needing a warm meal. There are not any qualifying or conditional factors like a lot of programs. They offer support and resources, and always say Grace before each meal.
Since my husband and I are both involved in social work, I understand the need for rules and policies for social programs. At the end of the day though, there are still people who are starving, cold, and in need of companionship. There are still people who just need a kind word, a non-judgmental look, the touch of another human, and a feeling of belonging somewhere….anywhere. This is one of the reasons why I suggested the group to my children.
From what I have heard, they are people who simply love other people and want or need or feel compelled, whatever you want to call it, to bring a little comfort to the forgotten, desperate, or needy.
Pure. Simple. Love.
I told the kids that when we got there, they would see people who do not have homes. They might even see children there, too. When we walked in, we were greeted by my friend who went to get the founders of the group. Both of my kids stood there for a while, taking it all in. My son kept staring at all of the people huddled around eating food.
Soon, a red-headed, freckled face little boy with an over-sized coat and a little girl with a dirty face, came right up next to our family. Both of my kids just stood there quietly. Every once in a while, they would head into the children’s area and play with a few toys, but mostly, they stayed close to us.
The founders of the group greeted us and I explained the Blessing Jar to them. Soon, the wife got down on my children’s level, and with tears in her eyes, graciously thanked them for the $32.00 dollars they donated. She explained what can be done with the money, and how it can help.
Thirty-two dollars given with the innocent hope that goodness will come out of it.
After a few tears, and hugs, we left the building and escaped back to our car and warm home. As I was tucking my son into bed, he said, “Mom, she had a rip in her clothes, and that boy’s jacket was way too big.” I just listened. He then went on to ask, “What if that boy doesn’t have a mommy and daddy? What will happen to him?” I said, “If he didn’t have a mommy or daddy, the people there helping out would make sure that he was somewhere he would be taken care of by a mommy and daddy.”
My son thought for a moment, and then said, “Like a foster home? Kinda like what we did for baby…?” I said, “Yes, kind of, but that little boy does have a mommy, and the coat may be too big, but at least he has a coat.” As he was snuggling into his warm bed, I asked him if he wanted to save money in the Blessing Jar again. He said, “Yes.” I kissed him goodnight, and my heart swelled.
The next day as we were getting into the car, he spotted a quarter that had fallen down in-between the seats. He quickly pointed out that it needed to go in the Blessing Jar! Our jar is empty now with the exception of a couple of quarters the children have already added, but hopefully it will start to fill up as the year goes on.
I have learned as a parent that it does not take a lot of effort to teach children about grace, generosity, giving, and loving others. Sometimes, children can teach these things better than any adult on any given day. We just need to stop long enough to hear their hearts speak through their actions, concerns, and musings of life.
Our little Blessing Jar has blessed us in return.
There is great joy that comes when generosity and life-lessons collide.
“In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ” – Acts 20:35