The Blessing Jar {Part 2}

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.

Blessing 1Last 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.

Blessing Jar 2Thirty-two dollars from two little ones who had no idea the gravity of the gift they gave.

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.Blessing Jar3

Our little Blessing Jar has blessed us in return.

There is great joy that comes when generosity and life-lessons collide.

Indeed.

“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

Glimpses of Goodness

“Can I show you something?”, a foster-mother asked as I entered her home to check on the teenager living with her.  “Sure”, I said.  She ran to the kitchen, grabbed a letter, and handed it to me.  “It came in the mail today”, she said in a soft tone and gentle smile.

I unfolded the hand-written letter, and began to read it.  The letter was written by a former foster child who lived in her home for less than one year.  He told her that he had gotten in serious trouble since he left her home, and had to pay for his crime in the local jail.  He told her about his baby girl, and fiance, and how he wanted to be a good father and husband.

He also spoke of the impact she had made on his life in just the short time he was there.  “You showed me what it is like to have a family”, he said.  He then reminded her that he witnessed the devotion she had to her family, and to her faith.  During his time in jail, he thought a lot about his time in her home, and realized that the life he was living was not one that would support his child, his fiance, or his desire to be the man he desperately wanted to be.

He ended his letter by telling her that he was about to get out of jail, and looked forward to being different from when he went in.  As I finished reading it, I looked up with tears and said, “Wow.”  She said, “You never really know what kind of impact you make on someone’s life.”

The memory of this moment was on my heart today after I witnessed my son, age 6, choosing to put his extra change in our family’s “Blessing Jar” instead of keeping it for himself.  You can read about this jar, and why we have it, by clicking on the link:  Blessing Jar.  After he decided his change should go into the jar, he looked up and said, “Why are you smiling?”  I said, “It just made me happy when you made this choice.”

Tonight, I was unfortunately reminded that the choices we make to better someone else’s life are not always supported by those closest to us.  A visit from one of my in-laws revealed this person’s opinion that we do not have support regarding our taking in my infant cousin who was in need of stability and security.  This person’s complete disregard for this child conflicts greatly with the stated faith this person believes in.  It is disappointing, and a little infuriating, but it certainly does not dis-sway us from doing what we felt led to do.

I’m sure that the foster-mother I spoke of earlier was confronted with opposing opinions about her desire to do foster care.  It would not surprise me if people questioned why she wanted to bring in “troubled” children and teenagers.  They may have provided her with multiple reasons why she should not have become a foster parent, and maybe even, distanced themselves from her.  There might have even been moments when she doubted her ability to get through to the toughest of kids.  She probably questioned from time to time if she was making a difference in their lives.  But….that short, sloppy-written, but significant letter came, and it reminded her of the reason she chose to invest in the lives of others.

The Lord gives glimpses of goodness, and reminders that our decision to choose life-affirming and love-giving actions matter.  I’ve seen it when watching my daughter nurture her older brother when he was not feeling well, or when watching the kids interact and love on the baby.  Today, I saw a glimpse of goodness when my son chose to give up his change with the knowledge that it will be used to bless someone else.  It seems the Lord gives us these glimpses in order to encourage us to keep on doing what we feel in our hearts is right to do.  He also gives us these moments to affirm how our choices, whether good or bad, affects others, and can be mimicked by the little ones in our lives.

If you have made a choice to do something that will affect others around you, or if you are being confronted with a situation where it would be easy to think “let someone else handle it”, then I want to encourage you to consider prayerfully and with wisdom what the right thing is for you to do.  Don’t let the blurred vision of others, or self-doubt, stop you from doing what your heart is leading you to do.

Little hands learning to Love
Little hands learning to Love

After all, you wouldn’t want to miss the incredibly humbling, and sweet glimpses of the goodness of life. 

Acts 20:35 – “In everything I showed you that by working hard in this manner, you must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He Himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.'” 

1 Peter 4:10-11- As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. Whoever speaks, let him speak, as it were, the utterances of God; whoever serves, let him do so as by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.