Inside: Spread kindness as a family through this Family Volunteer Challenge for November by gathering items for “blessing bags” to donate them to people who need them.
About a year ago, my family spent a night in a motel to get away for a weekend. My son and I took a short walk to McDonalds to grab us all a super healthy breakfast and on our way there, we passed two people asleep on the ground.
They had blankets, but it was cold and he had a lot of questions that I didn’t have answers to.
Why were they asleep on the ground? Weren’t they cold? Couldn’t they come stay inside the motel? Were they hungry?
As we walked to McDonald’s we talked about them and how they were homeless and probably were hungry.
So we ordered our breakfast and I then asked my son if he’d like to buy breakfast for the two people we saw. I let him guess what they would like and he chose breakfast sandwiches, hotcakes, hashbrowns, and his favorite, orange juice. I grabbed them my favorite too, coffee.
And then my son got to do one of the most amazing things. He walked up to them, asked them if they were hungry, and offered them breakfast.
They were so grateful and thanked him. Then I handed over the coffee and they thanked me profusely. A warm meal in your stomach on a cold morning is something most of us take for granted.
But we can’t always offer up a hot meal to someone who needs it. But we can make “blessing bags” and keep them in our cars so that when the opportunity arises and we encounter someone who needs a little help, we’re prepared and able to help them a little.
So November’s Volunteer Challenge is making blessing bags with our kids.
Why it’s Important to Volunteer with our Kids:
We are raising kind kids. We expect it, we praise it, and we model it.
Related: How to Raise Kinder Kids
And we tend to focus on the quiet, normal, everyday moments of kindness.
Holding the door for the person behind you.
Picking up something someone dropped.
Offering your seat to someone who needs it.
But there’s also bigger, grander, more time-consuming acts of kindness that falls more into the volunteering category of kindness:
Times when we donate to our local food bank.
Or collect all our old jackets and take them to a shelter that needs them.
Or when we take a taco to someone who’s really hungry.
Our kindness may not change the world. But it can change the world for the people we help.
And it instills in my children the fact that volunteering and acts of service are a normal part of lives.
Helping others doesn’t need to be a once a year activity during December when we donate a toy or two.
People are hungry year round.
Animal shelters are full year round.
Kids are sick year round.
And we can help. Because we are helpers. We are raising our kids to be helpers.
As an added bonus (as if we needed one more reason) volunteering as a family is an incredible way to connect as a family and build a strong family identity.
So teaching our kids to give to others who are less fortunate than ourselves is a true gift.
And volunteering is one of the easiest ways to help kids practice being compassionate. Compassion is feeling others’ pain or hardship or suffering and then being prompted to take action to relieve that suffering.
Many families want to donate and volunteer but it feels too hard.
And they don’t know where to volunteer or how easy it really is to make a significant difference.
So we’re here to make it easier for you with the Family Volunteer Challenge for November.
How the Family Volunteer Challenge Works:
Every month, we’ll post a family-friendly service activity you and your kids can do together.
It’s 12 months, 1 activity each month, 10-30 minutes each month.
And it’ll be super easy.
We’ll give you a suggestion.
You can run with it, tweak it, make it your own, or scrap it and do something totally different.
Your only tasks are to commit to doing this as a family, talk about what you’re doing and why with your kids so it has a lasting impact, and then protect the time on your calendar so it doesn’t get pushed back.
And it also has to come with this crucial caveat…you can only do this Family Volunteer Challenge if you do it with no guilt.
- No guilt that you didn’t start it sooner. You’re starting now and that’s incredible.
- No guilt if one month, life got in the way and you skipped it. You can do it next month, no worries.
- No guilt if you think your kids are selfish and self-centered and are ungrateful. They probably are but that’s not their fault or yours. It’s how their brain is wired and we can turn giving to others and being generous into a learned habit.
Okay, now that we’re guilt-free, let’s start spreading some kindness.
12 Months of Volunteering as a Family:
Before we jump into November’s volunteering activity, you can check out our past month’s volunteer activities in case you missed it and want to do more.
Now for November’s Volunteer Challenge:
For November, we’re getting “blessing bags” to people who need them.
Where I lived, we often had people standing on street corners with signs asking for help. And I often didn’t have anything to give them even when I was able to.
So I started carrying granola bars in my car and handing those out when I didn’t have a few dollars or change.
But then I heard about something called blessing bags. A blessing bag is a ziploc baggie filled with items that might be helpful.
Once you make these blessing bags, you keep them in your car and hand them out when you see someone or meet someone who would find them helpful.
Do the Family Volunteer Challenge for November now:
1. Gather items to fill up your blessing bags. You can get these items at a dollar store so you don’t have to spend a lot of money on each item.
Some items that might be helpful in a blessing bag:
- granola bar (chocolate only works if it’s winter or you don’t live somewhere super hot)
- a few dollars
- hand sanitizer or bar of soap
- new pair of socks
- new pair of mittens
- travel-sized toiletries
- travel toothbrush and toothpaste
- small first aid kit
- sanitary products for women
- first aid kit
- uplifting notecard your kids make
2. Encourage your kids to make notecards they can put in the bags. Try messages like “Have a good day!” and “Sending good thoughts!” or they can draw pictures.
3. Show your kids how to make the bags by creating an assembly line. Let them put the items in the bag and zip them up.
4. Put a few of the bags in your car and hand them out when you see someone who is asking for help.
Talk about it:
One of the most powerful parts of volunteering or donating something is talking to our kids about it so they understand the impact and the why. When they understand why they’re doing what they’re doing, they’re more likely to do it again.
Which will make volunteering more of an ingrained habit.
If you need help explaining it to younger kids, here’s how we do it: Some people do not have homes or need some extra help paying for groceries. They sometimes stand on the side of the street with signs asking for help. And we can help them. We can give them a few things that might make it easier if they’re homeless or if they need some help.
After the Volunteer Challenge for November, you can also read books to help kids learn about poverty and the power of donating what we have to others:
Have a conversation with your kiddos after they donate the winter jackets about how easy it was to take the time to donate something we no longer need but can be a big help to others. We can remind them to appreciate what we do have and help them see that it’s important to help others.
And you can ask them these questions:
How would you feel if were homeless and didn’t have what we needed?
Do you think it’s fair that some families don’t have a warm home to live in?
Was it easy to buy the items in the blessing bags and make the bags? Was it easy to give them out?
Why do you think it’s important to give to people who have less than what we have?
How does it feel to take the time to think about other people who can’t buy what they want whenever they want it?
Celebrate and Spread the Word:
Be proud of your volunteering and let your kids know you’re proud of them. Celebrate the time your family spent donating winter coats and mittens.
And share the Family Volunteer Challenge for November with other families. Kindness is contagious. Challenge other families to join you by asking them to also take a minute to help others.