“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” –Dr. Seuss This pretty much sums it up for us. We don’t just care a whole awful lot, but we want to teach kids (through play and creativity) why they should care and how they can! Caring, giving, community… it doesn’t have to be something extra, a new to-do to check off, another thing in our already crowded and overbooked schedules, or something else to make us feel like somehow we messed up this parenting thing again. I’m here to share how we can make it simple, how we can stop overthinking it, how it can be a way of life. Raise your hand if you go to the grocery store 1 to 3 times a week… that could be the farmer’s market, Costco, Sams, HEB, Whole Foods, Trader Joes, or any of the numerous local grocery stores across the country. I know I try to get everything in one weekly stop, but usually end up back at some food store 2 or 3 more times because I inevitably forgot something or needed something else or we ran out of blueberries for the cheeky little blueberry monster. Well, our family challenge this month was to take that time (grocery store time) that we’re already doing and use it as an opportunity to give back and have the conversation with our little one!
We created a list of fruits, veggies, grains and legumes. The goal was to give the list to our little one and have him find all the food in fresh form, we would add it to our menu throughout the week and cook recipes from the fresh food he found and picked. Then step two was to have him find all the food on the same list in the dry and canned version, so we could donate it to our local Houston Food Bank that is supported by Feeding America.For us this took no additional time out of our schedule. We planned our normal market and grocery store trips and Houston Food Bank has convenient donation bins located at grocery stores and post offices across Houston. No additional time, but opened up a world of conversations. We talked about, why we donate food, why we don’t donate fresh food, we talked about how some kids and families don’t have food to eat for breakfast, lunch or dinner (to which he replied not even snack time and I said, yep not even snack time), we talked about how grateful we would be if we were hungry and someone helped feed us, we talked about how it makes us feel to help feed others, we talked about why some children and families don’t have food, we talked about being hungry and how our bodies feel when they are hungry, we talked about where food comes from, who grows it, and how it helps our bodies grow, we talked about what we would do if we had to choose between getting gas for our car or eating.
In one action, in one routine trip to the market, in one conversation we were able to talk about and live out kindness, empathy, gratitude and diversity. My son is 4, we started having these conversations when he was about 2, what he understands now versus what he understood then is a world of difference. What he will understand when he’s 6 will be even more, but it’s not about perfection or having the perfect kid, with the perfect understanding. It’s about seizing the every day opportunities to have the conversation, to plant the seed, to lay the foundation. So giving back, helping others, isn’t something we do once a year around the holidays, rather it’s a part of how we live… aware of the community around us and open to talking about it. Little ones are naturally curious, every day they are learning and growing, every day their minds are expanding and processing information, and my hope is that I can share some of the most important lessons I’ve learned through life, that I can teach his growing, information processing mind and heart that really life isn’t about what we have or get, but what we DO and HOW we do it.And I fail at this, I am not perfect. There are days that go by and the only example I’ve modeled for him is a rushing, stressed, frustrated, ball of mess. But it’s not about perfection, it’s not about being hard on ourselves for when we didn’t, but to start to incorporate these conversations into our lives, to create a new habit so eventually we do it more than we don’t. If you follow me at all on Instagram, you know I love the Headspace Meditation App. My goal is to meditate every day, I feel better when I do, more centered, more clear, more patient. But some days I don’t, sometimes a week or two goes by and I feel it and I go back and start again and open the app. Do I fail at meditation, sure in a sense I do, but in a sense not really because I know my goal and when I see myself veering, when this practice or habit becomes too far from my daily life, I readjust and realign, without judging myself.
All of this to say… teaching our kids about community and giving back isn’t about having the perfect kid or being the perfect parent. It’s about being realistic in your life and knowing that there are simple, non-time consuming ways we can add this in… if we want to. And when I look around the world today, when I open Facebook, I’m more and more assured that as a parent and as a person one of the most valuable things I can give my son is to show him that he is a part of something greater than himself, he is a part of community and to teach him the impact he can have on community.On our trip we went to the Urban Harvest Farmer’s Market. We try to make it to a local farmer’s market once a month (but again we don’t always, but we do when we can). He went to the local farmers and makers and selected all his veggies and fruit and pasta (of course pasta) and legumes. Beets weren’t on the list, but we got those any way because well they’re a favorite of ours. If you’re local to Houston Urban Harvest Farmer’s Market is one of our favorites and it’s every Saturday from 8am to 12pm they are also open on Wednesdays at City Hall Downtown from 11am to 2pm Two other great farmers markets we love are The East End Farmer’s Market, open Sundays from 10am to 2pm and the Memorial Village Farmer’s Market open Saturdays from 9am to 1pm
For our grocery store trip we usually end up at Whole Foods, Central Market or HEB. For this trip it was HEB because we needed just a couple of things and it’s closest to our house and on the way home from school pick up. And the weirdest part of this trip was trying to take photos in the middle of the store… lol, mom business problems. What was great about this is that my little one asked me if every time we go to HEB if we could get some food for the Food Bank bin and I said yes. So we made it a goal that every trip to HEB we will pick up just a handful of cans or pasta and donate it. I’m not talking about a huge amount, but about $1 to $3 of food, and in return I get this smile, plus he starts to think about other ways he can giveback and make an impact. When he sees people that he thinks are hungry, his first reaction is to ask me if we have a snack to share with them. He will talk to me about how his body feels when he’s hungry and how he wants to help that person so they aren’t hungry too. Mainly he says, “Mama lets feed them. Let’s share our food so that aren’t hungry!” Other great and simple ways to giveback is to create care packs and keep in your car with water, granola bars and other snacks to hand out. You can also host a bake sale and donate the money to No Kid Hungry or in lieu of birthday gifts collect food for your local food bank.
For all of our market and grocery store trips we took our Bugged Out Carrot Tote, which is quite large and very durable. I love a good quality tote and this one hits all the marks, plus a percentage of the proceeds from Bugged Out sales goes directly to Multiple Sclerosis Research at the National Multiple Sclerosis Society… talk about another easy and simple way to open up a conversation with our little ones about giving back!
For this month’s Outside The Box, Growing, Sharing, Eating box we partnered with Feeding America because they have local food banks all across the country, to find your local food bank just click HERE and enter your zip code. It’s important to us that every month we find easy, simple, convenient ways you and your little can make an impact. But if you want to learn more about hunger in America visit Feeding America and No Kid Hungry, I have a tremendous amount of respect and love for what these two organizations are doing to fight hunger in America. In the U.S. today there are 42 million people facing hunger, including nearly 13 million children.
Join us in doing our little bits of good. Let’s teach our little ones to do a little bit of good. Let’s be a force for change for good, for kindness, for empathy, for compassion. Let’s show our little ones how all of our little bits of good together really do overwhelm the world. Because let’s be honest folks, I don’t think anyone believes kids should go hungry, especially when there’s so much abundance in this country and we may not be able to change it alone, but if we each live it out in our lives we can change it together.
“Do your little bit of good where you are, it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.” -Desmond Tutu