I sat down after eating part of my kids’ Halloween candy and thought I would write a Christmas post. Seeing as it is, what? About 8 weeks away now? Wait! Don’t panic! It’s not that kind of post, calm down.
No, this is a planning kind of post – a “hey people, think of this early” kind of post.
Every year we do some sort of Christmas thing to help others on top of our normal stuff. One year my husband’s work had them sign up to sponsor a kid and we went Christmas shopping for presents. And kid, I’m very sorry. As a parent now, mea culpa. I know better than to give you a flashy, shiny toy that goes through batteries like popcorn.
The last few years we’ve done the Operation Christmas Child shoe boxes because it’s a great way for our kids to feel like they’re involved. They chose things to put in the boxes, they help shop during our special “box only” shopping trip, and they help pack the boxes. I decided that this year, we would do something else. This year we would try to help those closer to us – those local to us. Partly because I want to help those around us, and partly because I’m not entirely happy with the OCC operation and how it’s run.
This year, I’m juggling three different things and I wanted to share them. They all need to be completed fairly early for the holiday season: if you want to participate, you’ll need to get out there and get going before Thanksgiving even arrives.
Foster Care Sponsorship:
The first thing is an outreach by our county’s Foster Care program. They manage and distribute wish lists and gifts to children in foster care who might not get anything else for Christmas. These kids write a wish list or ask for gift cards, especially the older ones. They do everything from stocking stuffers to sponsoring a child. Our particular outreach asks that gifts be delivered by December 4th, so that they can manage wrapping and distribution fairly easily.
They also do frequent school supply drives, coat drives, or backpack drives for the kids year-round, so that’s something else to keep an eye out for. I try to watch for local sales so I can stock up and donate at the correct time, but kids and life often get in the way of scheduling things.
In our situation, the Foster Car service spokesperson reached out to a local group and asked if anyone was interested in helping. We contacted them, and are in the process of getting something started as a homeschool group (the scout group planned too far in advance for us to make it a scout thing.) If you are interested in helping in your area, contact the Foster Care service and ask. They may have something set up already, or you may be instrumental in helping to get the ball rolling. It never hurts to ask!
Adopt a Grandparent:
The second thing is something I’ve been wanting to get involved in for a long time. A completely random person volunteered to manage an “Adopt a Grandparent” event for Christmas. She called the local nursing homes and elder care locations and had them set up a wish list. Once she had the wish list, she’s asking people to adopt a senior, and to help hand out the gifts.
If you’ve ever been to a nursing home, you’ll know that they’re sterile environments. They’re often boring, plain, hospital-like rooms where the seniors spend a lot of their time waiting. Waiting for the next meal. Waiting for the next t.v show. Waiting for someone – anyone – to come visit. A nursing home is a really hard place to spend the holidays.
This event took a volunteer to stand up and make it happen. We’re supporting her – we’re trying to help by adopting a grandparent, and I’m going to ask if the kids can do something simple like make cards for the seniors too. I would love for my kids to visit and help brighten someone’s day, but sometimes the restrictions on little kids visiting keep us from volunteering at places like nursing homes.
Pine Ridge Reservation Holiday Okini List:
The third thing we’re involved in this year is Native Promise’s Christmas program to sponsor a family or child from the Pine Ridge reservation. Like the other two organizations, there are specific families and kids with specific wish lists. Native Promise is working with One Spirit to help with their Holiday Okini list (gift list) – please note that they also have a year-round Okini list as well as a permanent sponsorship option.
Pine Ridge is, for lack of a better term, a third-world blot on our collective consciousness. This reservation struggles for many reasons, and most of them are our fault (collective and national “our,” not trying to make anyone feel guilty.) They NEED help in a way that would make you cry – because kids literally can’t go to school because they have no shoes. Because elders literally have no winter coats in a harsh, cold, South Dakota winter.
One Spirit is assisting with specific needs, and you can also support them while shopping with iGive and Amazon Smile at this link.
Some of these request make me just want to cry: “A single father is having a difficult time providing for his children and could really use a helping hand. Often they run out of food.” “This Elder is in desperate need of help right now! Barely making ends meet and often runs low on food. Currently borrowing a pair of shoes to just get by. Any help would make a huge difference.” If you want to help someone, this is a wonderful place to start.
I’m not asking you to ignore your family for Christmas – instead, I’m asking you to evaluate what your plans are for the holidays, and see if there is something you could do to help others around you. For ourselves, we will be keeping Christmas gifts low-key and put some of that money towards helping others. We’ll also be trying to help out as a homeschool group, and as a scout group.
I want to teach my children compassion. I want to teach them to try to help others instead of being greedy and selfish. Today is Halloween, a holiday that celebrates greed, and I’m sitting here crying and reading a list of needs that people half-way across the country desperately need. I want to change the world – and I’m going to do it one kid at a time.
Think about it?