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Cultivating a Kind Heart

on June 23, 2014

I have written about this topic, but in a different way before.  After some events in the last week,  I felt a re-posting and elaboration was needed.

There are so many things that our children need to be successful and thoughtful adults someday–and so many of those things start when they are young.  But, how to you cultivate kindness?  How do you get your children to understand how to be thankful and thoughtful?  How do you get them to understand that there may be people in your community, state, country, or world that do not have the advantages that they do?  One way is to show them.  And, that is what I have chosen to do with my daughter.

What started out as a simple way to get my kiddo to understand that it is ok to give away items that she has outgrown (and to declutter in anticipation of holidays and birthdays) has ended up as a wonderful way to show my daughter what it means to be compassionate and to think of others in need.  Let me start out by saying that my family is by no means well to do–we are definitely in the middle class zone both being educators.  But, our daughter is also an only child and an only grandchild on one side of the family–so she gets more than a family with more kiddos might get.  Plus, we have very generous friends with older girls who have handed down some of their toys and items to us.  All of this means tons of stuff to try and tackle in our moderately sized home.  Which is probably why you see so many posts from me about how to manage the kid clutter.

One of my favorite ways to do this is to spread the love by sharing our gently used items with others.  We could simply take our items to the nearest Goodwill (which we do with some things) or hold a garage sale (which I’ve never done in my adult life and just quite frankly don’t want stuff hanging around all year waiting to be sold for minimal profit).  With our kiddo items, I like to be able to get our daughter involved so she can help decide what to do with these items and see how she can help others first hand.

I wrote about this briefly in a post from way back called Conquering Kid Chaos–and it fell under the “purge” tip of my Top 7 Organizing Tips–in relation to how to keep your house from being overrun by toys.

From previous post:

Purge.  You may remember this from my 7 Organization strategies post.  As with any organization plan, I firmly believe the less you have the easier it is to be organized.  My daughter and I do this very frequently, and since she was about three she has been very involved in the process.  Before Christmas and her birthday we go through the toys in her room (and other areas of the house) and decide what she actually plays with and what can move on to another child that will get more fun from it than she does.  I try to guide her when I can and even give her a choice, like pick one of these to keep and one to give away.  Beginning this at a young age has helped greatly, because she is very used to the process, but you can probably start this at any age—just be sure to involve your kids.  Another reason why toy give aways have been successful for us is that we always have a pre-determined destination for the items.  Sometimes we pick out things to give to specific friends (we even went on a secret adventure one evening and left stuffed animals in several friends’ mailboxes–this has been one of her all time favorite things to do.  She even go to pick which friend received which animal).  Other times, we select items to donate to the local children’s hospital.  Most recently, a friend of ours had a family member experience a fire that destroyed their home, and they lost everything.  We discussed the issue with my daughter and asked her to pick out toys, books, and stuffed animals to give to the two little kids who had lost everything.  She easily agreed and donated an overflowing large milk crate of her belongings to these two little ones she has never met, and probably never will—and didn’t even bat an eye about it.  I am so proud of her for that and happy that our little system has helped her see the importance of giving to others.

While it is hard for a now six-year-old to try and think of the many ways she can help others all of the time, I can see that our practice of giving to those in need or those we love has made a difference in her.  When she realizes she isn’t really playing with something anymore, she asks me if we can give it someone else and usually supplies a friend’s name who likes those kinds of toys.  And, when I come to her with an idea of how to share some of her good fortune with those who need it most, she jumps right on the bandwagon–usually without a second thought.

This year for her birthday, I thought about all of the toys she currently has that she still plays with (many that she got for her birthday the past two years) and all of the items she was sure to get from her family and friends parties and my brain went mushy.  She barely has the time or space to play with what she had!  What were we going to do with all the extra stuff?   So, we had a discussion.  We talked about donating some of the toys from her friends birthday party to kids in need.  We have donated things to the Children’s Hospital in the past, and we talked about finding somewhere new to share this time around.  We settled on a homeless shelter in our town that specializes in working with families and single parents–she remembered it from when we had donated some items like winter coats for our 25 days of giving.

It was a little hard for her to come to terms with the idea of giving all of her presents to others–after all she is six–but she also wanted to help kids who probably didn’t get anything for their birthdays.  We spent some time talking about it and came up with a way for her to be able to keep some items and for her to also be able to donate some items.  (If she wasn’t comfortable with donating any, we would have gone that route too.  It did help though that she had been to a birthday party earlier in the year for a schoolmate who donated his presents).

We came up with a list of inexpensive things for people to buy and asked that they purchase two–one for her and one for the kids at the homeless shelter.  Our list included things you could find in the dollar aisle or would be less than $10 for two–things like sidewalk chalk, coloring books, bubbles, stickers, etc.  I didn’t want to overburden anyone with supplying items for this idea, so we tried to make it as easy and inexpensive as possible.  And, thankfully those who were able to attend were very thoughtful and generous in their gifts.  One afternoon when she was off of school and we were running errands, we stopped by to drop off the gifts.  She got a tour of the main areas for the residents (none were around at the time) including the children’s play area.  She decided while we were there that she wanted to go back sometime this summer to play with some of the kids and to help with serving meals–I am looking forward to setting these up soon!

These are all of the items we were able to share with the homeless shelter!  I sent a picture of the kiddo sitting behind these items out as a thank you card to those who attended the party.

These are all of the items we were able to share with the homeless shelter! I sent a picture of the kiddo sitting behind these items out as a thank you card to those who attended the party.

And, what made me think of sharing these stories with all of you is an incident that happened in our area this week.  We had several tornadoes go through some smaller towns north of here and destroy many homes.  Someone I know in the area said 62 homes were affected.  Businesses and organizations all over the area are pulling together to donate water, gatorade, clean up supplies, and much more to help the families affected.  I knew immediately there was a way we could step up and help.  I went to my daughter and briefly told her about families losing their homes (I didn’t go into too much detail because she is in a stage where she is VERY afraid of tornadoes), and that some kids lost all of their toys and clothes.  She was ready to get to work!  We spent a little time this weekend going through her room and found a garbage bag full of kids bedding and clothing that we no longer needed and two large paper shopping bags full of toys and books.  To be honest, we were running a little short on time (I needed to get the stuff to the person who would be delivering the items), and I was going to skip over going through her books.  She called me back to reality though, and showed me that I needed to make the time.  “Mommy, they’re going to need books too!”  My heart soared.  She was right.  They certainly were.

And that is why I am sharing this post today.  My daughter has a caring heart and knows that one way she can help others is to share what she has with those in need.  This all started as a way to help get rid of some overcrowding of stuffed animals and has become a thoughtful practice and second nature action for my kiddo.  I can only imagine how she will continue to help others as she grows and matures through life, and I feel so honored to be able to help guide her along the way.



One response to “Cultivating a Kind Heart

  1. […] week I posted about one of the ways I try to help my daughter cultivate a kind heart (which really isn’t hard, because she cares easily.)  I chatted about how we donate gently […]

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