In case you weren’t located around Houston or Texas, you might not have heard about the devastating wildfires that consumed so much of our state in 2011. Within just miles of The Woodlands and our home is a town called Magnolia (we also attend church there) that suffered some very horrible losses due to the fires. Our community pulled together to help the folks who lost their homes or were displaced for weeks and months at a time. Tyler came into my room and started going through my toilettries. I asked him what he was doing, and he said that there was a big bin at his elementary school to collect things for the Magnolia wildfire victims. He said he wanted to donate some things in the bin. How could I possibly say no to that sweet face. I told him to take whatever he could find. Here are some of his findings and donations!
Several weeks ago I scored an amazing deal on a new backpack for Tyler. He already had a backpack, but it wasn’t exactly what he wanted, and he had never made use of it. When we got him, I asked him what he wanted to do with his old backpack. Very excitedly and in Tyler’s adorable high-pitched voice, he said, “I know! We can donate it to someone who doesn’t have money to buy a backpack!”
I did not make that up. My eyes are welling with tears just recalling that moment. How sweet of him to know how blessed he is, and to want to help someone who has less then he does. I agreed immediately.
To help kids prepare kids for the start of school, our local YMCAs sponsor a backpack drive called “Operation Backpack” . Our church decided to take part in this endeavor, so I thought it would be perfect for Tyler’s precious desire to donate his old backpack. We actually did this a few weeks ago, but I am just getting around to posting it. I think they “technically” want brand new backpacks, and though we’d taken the tags off of Tyler’s old backpack, it was still unused. In my house this qualifies as “new”.
Tyler and Madison helped me with this project because Cole was not feeling well. We took a fun trip to Target to get school supplies, and I was SHOCKED how cheap Target had them. It was awesome! We were able to buy a bunch of goodies to stuff in the backpack.
The next day was Sunday, so we took our backpack to church, and the kids proudly set it around the box for Operation Backpack. Tyler is here modeling the donation backpack. Madison is proudly modeling her own new Minnie Mouse backpack. I am so proud of Tyler’s awesome suggestion – and for another service project to help our community!
Yesterday my firm emailed everyone to announce its participation in the Faces of Change school supply drive. This is a really cool effort, and since we have not done a service project in waaay to long, I decided this would be a good jump start back into the projects. Honestly, the kids have asked me several times over the past month when our next project was. I have been so tired and busy, that it felt really good to do this.
So we decided to head to our office supply store for our supplies because they had 20 cent notebook paper, pens, and notebooks with a coupon I printed online. The kids loved looking for supplies to help others who could not afford their own. I’d explained to them what we were doing, and it kind of got them pumped up for the start of school too. They each wanted to help me carry everything, it was very sweet. Except Madi, who was more interested in her Mentos.
Now for the GOD part of all this. I have been really into couponing lately so that I could be a good steward of the money God has given me to use. I went to an office supply store because of the school supply coupons, but knew that they also had backpacks for 100% back in a store reward program (free). So Tyler found one he liked, and it cost $20. We got up to the register to checkout and the salesperson told me that I could use another coupon on the printout for $5 off if I just bought something for $1 more. No brainer, right? So I let Cole pick out some M&Ms. The cashier rung it up and somehow my total came to $11. He could not figure out what happened so the manager came over. He could not figure it out either and just said, “Hey, you win the lottery. That will be $11.21, and you will get your full $20 MaxPerks back.” WOW. So they paid me $9 to take the backpack, school supplies, and candy off their hands.
The kids were pumped at our amazing deal, and I was sure to point out to them how awesome God works through people on earth. I told them that when we give to others, God gives it back a thousand times over (and sometimes it even comes in the form of free M&M’s!).
About a week ago the boys actually asked me, when are we going to do another service project? I just can’t describe how that made me feel. Five and six year olds ask to do things that are 1) FUN and 2) IMPORTANT TO THEM. For them to ask this question tells me that they see service as both fun and important to them. So Cole started to brainstorm ideas for things we could do that night. His first one was to go to someone’s house and clean it up for them. I LOVED that idea – how about we start with our own? Just kidding.
I explained that we’d have to arrange that with someone because we couldn’t just arrive at our neighbor’s house with a mop and broom. Or could we??? Tina?? Ha!
Tyler then asked if we could write a thank you note for our trash man. How sweet! I would have loved to do that, but since I am at work when the trash men come, and they have those metal arm things that lift up the can…I wasn’t sure how to get the note to them.
I was beginning to sound like I didn’t want to do a service project. But then Tyler said, let’s make a thank you card for the mailman! AH-HAH!
Our mail”man” is actually a woman, so we thanked our mail carrier. Cole was not pleased with the card that he did, so he asked what else he could do to help. I told him that we could get a gift card too, and he could pick where we get it from. But Cole decided to do better than that he said, HOW ABOUT IF I PAY FOR IT WITH MY MONEY? How sweet is that? My selfless sweet little boy. Of course, I did not let him pay for it, but told him how amazing it was that he wanted to do that. We picked McDonald’s since the mail carrier is always on the go. This week I put Tyler’s card (also signed by Cole), the gift card, and a note from us and left them in our mailbox so the mail carrier would get them. This 52 weeks of service experiment is coming along quite nicely.
Well, we missed about two months. To say a lot has changed is putting it mildly. Two months ago, we lost our fourth baby at 38 weeks. Chase is a beautiful angel and rest in the arms of Jesus. For that, we are so happy. But we miss him, and we’ve spent the past couple of months making sense of everything and finding our new “normal”. The kids stopped asking about service projects, and I stopped feeling the motivation to serve. But several weeks ago I heard about the death of a young man who went to meet Jesus at the age of 21. And suddenly I wanted to serve everyone. I wanted to calm the fears of anyone who was scared, feed anyone who was hungry, love on anyone who felt alone…I once again felt the call of Jesus. And it suddenly became even more important to me that I instill certain values in my children. No matter how many medals they win, how many A’s they make on tests, or how many trophies line their walls, if they seek first the Kingdom of God, I have done my job. And to me, a large part of His kingdom is serving others.
So we started with something small – a donation to Goodwill of yet more stuff that we did not need. We have far too much stuff (don’t we all). And if we’re not using it, we should give it to someone who can. Here are the boys dropping off the “stuff”.
The boys were really excited when I told them we were going to do a service project – until I told them I had to take a photo of it. But they got back into the groove, and I explained what “goodwill” was. It was a nice welcome back into our mission, and it is my prayer that these projects instill in my children a love for serving others as if serving the Lord himself.
Our service projects got put on the backburner during the last few weeks of my pregnancy…and then again after we lost baby Chase. Knowing that I would not have a full maternity leave to spend with my kids like I’d originally thought, I decided we needed to do at least one service project while I was still home from work. As I was reading about how to hepl the kids deal with the loss of Chase, I came across something that compared death of an infant to unopened flowers. Since it is spring time, I thought – flowers! So we went to WalMart and I let the kids pick out packets of wildflower seeds. They loved picking out their favorite colors – and we even wound up buying some basil seeds to try our hand at growing the plant at home. Just across the street from WalMart is a long stretch of road where the wildflowers bloom every year. I parked the car on the side of the road, then the kids and I got out to toss around our seeds. I told them that we were not only helping to beautify the roadside, but every year when the flowers bloomed, we could remember and think of Chase. They really loved that – smiles all around. Here are some photos of our seeds for Chase project.
It’s been quite a while since we sponsored little Jeferson Ernesto Suchi Aguilar. The boys have been asking me over and over if we could send him food, clothes, and other things. Compassion doesn’t allow us to send goods, but asks instead that we send cards, letters, and other things like that to let him know how much we love him. Of course, we can make monetary donations at any time to help him with those things the boys wanted to send.
So I asked them if they’d like to draw him some pictures – and they were all over it! Cole knew he liked cars, so he made him a card with such a sweet “I Love You” message on the outside and some little cars on the outside. Madi scribbled some beautiful art, and Tyler drew him the sun shining on some flowers. I taped a photo of us inside a card with a message. I told the kids that the best we could do for Jeferson was to pray for him…and they smiled at that.
I admit, having three kids, working full time, and entering the last couple of months of pregnancy has made me one tired momma. But our church has made it a priority to start giving back more to our community, and I am going to take advantage of those opportunities! In January, the church held a clothing drive for a local group called Society of Samaritans. What a GREAT opportunity to clean out the closets. So the boys went through their old clothes, and so did my husband and I. The boys were excited to give the clothes to the people who needed them. Here they are picking out clothes to donate…
And here they are dropping them off at the church collection spot…
This was actually last week’s project. Time constraints have made me slow to post it, but when Cole asked me yesterday, “Mom, what is our next service project? We’ve done so many, what’s left to do?” I knew I needed to keep this going. It was an amazing feeling for him to be so interested in the projects and what we’d do next. It was also a great opportunity to tell him that there was so much more good we could do in this world…
A rough start to the new year, and we missed a week!! I was so sad when I realized we hadn’t done a service project last week. But we’re off and running again with another project. This week, we collected shoes and socks for the Montgomery County Good Soles Donation Center. They accept donations of gently used and new socks and shoes for infants, children, adults, and seniors. I bought some new socks, then the boys had a blast going through the shoes we collected for donation. As always, I asked them if they understood why we were giving away our shoes. Tyler promptly answered, because there are people who don’t have any shoes, and they need something on their feet. Voila – mission accomplished!
Our church is small, growing, and new. Okay…so not exactly new. But we are small, mighty and very loving! We’re also a very generous church, and most everyone is ready to jump in and help when needed. So when we moved into our new building, and the pastor called for families to sign up to clean up the facility after church once a month for one quarter a year…I jumped on it. I thought, what a better service project than cleaning God’s house! As a small but growing church, we try to save money where we can…so we can spend more on benevolence and other church activities.
I was not sure how well the kids would take to cleaning up after church, but to my surprise they were actually EXCITED about it. I am not kidding. They were very excited to be vacuuming, and the boys were so proud of the work they’d done. Perhaps it’s because they are still little and think that vacuuming or mopping is fun. No matter what, it went so well, and I am so proud of them. Not only did they do service, but they saw what we could accomplish as a team. And they didn’t just help out “for fun”…they really vacuumed, mopped and swept. I told them they were helping clean God’s house, and they really liked that. Madi even got into the act and carried the trash can back into the nursery.
When we were pulling away from the church, they also thought it was fun to be the last ones there. Tyler asked me if we could do another service project later that day. It almost made me cry that he found this so enjoyable. That was my goal…to set them on a path of service as “fun” and a part of why we’re all here. My new 2011 “thing” (because I don’t make resolutions) is to do everything as if serving the Lord…I told myself that many times as I did the 8 loads of holiday laundry later that afternoon! Blessings to all this new year, and I cannot wait to see what other projects lie ahead!