Thursday, December 12, 2013

What is Donate?

Dear Em,
In life & in love, our little family is so fortunate. As the temperatures fall this winter & wintry weather falls, Daddy & I have been taking to you about how fortunate we are to have a home to keep us warm. Your eyes get wide at the realization that not everyone has a house to come home to...or clothing to wear...or food to eat.

I've tried to be more mindful about this season, possibly more than any other, being more about giving than receiving. I've tried to keep you more mindful about it too. We donated a princess Barbie Doll to Toys for Tots (which you looked at longingly). We provided a bag of canned goods for the Boy Scouts. You handed the man from the Salvation Army all the change I had in my wallet. Instead of just buying things for you, you helped me make gifts for your friends, your teachers, & our family.

A few years ago one of my friends gave me another idea. In order to be more mindful about giving when she was a child growing up, her parents encouraged her to go through her toys each Christmas season & chose one to donate. She now helps her children do the same. I thought that would be a great idea for you. As we looked through your room in search of one item, I noticed there were many things that you haven't played with in a while but would bring joy to other children. We filled a couple boxes with books & stuffed animals, & I wondered where we could donate them.

I have an amazing friend. Ryan & I worked together in college. We were beach buddies & he has been my children's movie buddy ever since (we're so excited to have you to watch with now too). After college, Ryan worked with & counseled people who had been given terminal diagnoses. I asked him how he could see such pain day after day? Ryan just looked at me like how could he not? Seriously, this is the kind of thing that real superheros are made of.

Now Ryan works for Friends Way, a nonprofit bereavement center in Rhode Island that provides support & programs for grieving children, family, & teens. When I asked Ryan if they could use books & stuffed animals, he said the kids would love them. I talked to you about giving your things to children who had been through some very sad things & hoped that your books & toys would be something to help them smile. You weren't really thrilled to be saying goodbye to your things, but you were OK with that. So, we packed your things into boxes, loaded them into my car, & you & I headed to meet Ryan at Friends Way.

Ryan greeted us at the front door & gave us a tour of their building. Children's pictures & poems & paintings filled the walls. The walls were otherwise white, & Ryan was excited that a mural would be painted on one of them the very next day. We saw craft rooms & rooms filled with mismatched couches & chairs. You enjoyed walking from room to room until you eventually found your favorite spot, a box filled with brand new stuffed animals. Ryan told you as a way of thanks you could pick out one stuff animal. I kind of sighed. This trip was supposed to be about giving for you, & here you were receiving, but the smile on your face made it impossible to say no. You may have had trouble picking just one stuffed animal.

You finally picked out one purple ballerina bunny & named her Purplicious. You told Ryan you would love your little Bunny forever. "I promise I will never sell Purplicious." I looked at you quizzically. "What do you mean sell your bunny? We don't sell your things." "Aren't we selling my things to Ryan," you asked confused. I smiled & tried not to laugh. "Oh, Em, we're not selling your things. We're donating them."

"Donate? What is donate?"

Ryan explained to you that donating is giving your things that you don't play with anymore to other children so that they could love and play with them. You seemed happy with that, especially if it meant you could take Purplicious home with you (the two of you have been inseparable ever since). I don't know if the "giving is better than receiving" message has truly set in for you at this young age, but I hope that this season is the start of a tradition of giving for you. I hope we can find new ways to donate & help those in need. I hope that you know of everything that sits under our tree, yours & Daddy's love shines the brightest.

I love you so,

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