By Monica Gutherie
These days it can feel like materialism is at an all-time high. Teaching compassion and generosity can be tough, however a few years ago my friend, Jennifer Twilley, introduced me to a challenge she and her family participated in every November. For the entire month her family commits to giving something away - every day - for 30 days.
I joined a page Jennifer runs called “Thirty Days of Thanks and Giving” (easy name to remember) and was inspired by others who used the challenge as a way for their family to be aware of those around them. On her page Twilley says, “the idea is to inspire us all to give what we have in new ways.”
I asked my children if they would like to join me and was surprised by how much wider my net was cast with their added points of view – now I was aware of my children’s friends, their teachers their coaches and mentors – and I was educated on other ways to give and show thankfulness.
So, every November, my family makes a list of things we are thankful for and brainstorm ways we can give back. While my youngest wants to give away old toys and make cookies, our oldest has become better at thinking outside the box and has started suggesting ways to volunteer. It’s been really amazing to hear the children come up with ideas and to get excited about following through with them.
Here is our example calendar. Some are of the activities are for the family and others are just for the children or just for adults (like giving blood/plasma). Feel free to use our example or come up with your own.
- Friday – Make a list of what we are thankful for and brainstorm ways to give
- Saturday – Volunteer at the boys school for a family-fun day
- Sunday – Tip extra / Write thank you notes to teachers
- Monday – Deliver thank you notes to teachers
- Tuesday – Make a care package to send to deployed Soldiers
- Wednesday – Make cookies to youth group friends
- Thursday – write a thank you note to sports coaches
- Friday – Donate clothes
- Saturday – Volunteer at local homeless ministry
- Sunday – Write Thanksgiving cards
- Monday – Drop off some Starbucks to a stay-at-home mom / Mail out cards
- Tuesday – Shop for Angel Tree
- Wednesday – Support Compassion International (or another organization of your choice)
- Thursday – Bake cookies for first responders
- Friday – Bake cookies for OTHER first responders
- Saturday – Be thankful for nature and make a bird feeder
- Sunday – Write a thank you note to pastor
- Monday – Be thankful for our home and make cookies for our housing workers
- Tuesday – Participate in Operation Christmas Child (or another organization)
- Wednesday – Donate toys
- Thursday – Donate food to a food bank
- Friday – Show friends you are thankful for them (write a letter, make brownies)
- Saturday – Help your parents with a task
- Sunday – Help family members with a task
- Monday – Leave a little surprise treat for the mail carrier
- Tuesday – Donate blood/plasma
- Wednesday – Make welcome basket for new neighbors
- Thursday – Help serve food at a shelter
- Friday – donate money in the Salvation Army bucket
- Saturday – Support a friend who has a small business
Notes and Suggestions:
- Join with others: Not only does joining with others help encourage generosity, but it helps lighten the load for larger projects like care packages and angel tree items.
- Talk to your children about the blessings that you have and about why its important to give to others.
- Think of people close to you and who live afar: We have a friend who is pregnant in another state and we are sending a small package of gifts to them since they live away from family.
- Help your children be mindful of the emotions of others: One of the friends of my oldest son had a hard breakup and my son suggested making cookies – a great idea.
- The point is to be mindful of what we are thankful for and to give what we can. Your calendar may just be Saturdays or maybe instead of giving monetary things, you write thank you notes to people who have had an impact on your life. It doesn’t cost anything to say “thank you.”
Monica K. Guthrie is an Army brat, an Army veteran (Rock of the Marne!) and now an Army spouse with two boys. She is currently the media relations officer for the public affairs office at Fort Sill, Okla., and writes a weekly column called the Okie Bucket List. She also has a photography and graphic design business, Pro Deo Creations, that she maintains between potty training and kissing scraped knees.
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