October 21st, 2014
By: Amy Davis
Would your child offer to give up birthday gifts in order to help feed the hungry? You’d be surprised at the answer.
If you look around social media, the news, or perhaps even in your mailbox, you’ll see that there are more and more children asking to forgo birthday gifts in order to benefit someone else. Food drives for people and animals, toys for children in need, shoes, coats, and clothing for people less fortunate than they are, the list goes on. My heart sings every time I see this! I admire and appreciate them for what they do, who they are, and the impact they seek to make on our world. And I am grateful for the people in their life who may have influenced such selflessness at an age when humans are less inclined to be so aware of the needs of others. I imagine that these children will make a beautifully positive difference as they grow into adults with even better ideas and resources to change things.
My son and I held a food drive for his 4th birthday, as well. And while the story might be nicer to hear if you thought he came up with the idea himself, our food drive happened for a slightly different reason. For us, this was a conversation starter about something important. It was a memorable month-long event that I hope will stick with our son for a long time, and something I hope he will feel good about. Something that I hope he looks back on in the future to say: “I remember collecting all that food…and that mommy explained that it was for kids who don’t have enough food to eat…I remember that day in the picture when we gave it all to the nice lady at the warehouse…” I hope he remembers, and I hope this helps plant the seed in his heart to think of others and to be kind when he can. He may not totally get it now, but he will someday. My hope is that he will follow the good examples that the people in his life model around him, and I believe including him in those examples is very important.
Sure, he blew out candles, had some cake and icecream, and balloons all through the house when he woke up. He got presents. He got a few things from his dad and me…and he has two sets of grandparents who find a certain kind of unmatched joy from having their grandson open gifts they’ve picked out for his birthday. He knew it was a special day to celebrate the beautiful day he was born. We had a great time.We don’t have a lot of money, but we have all that really counts. And we are certainly very fortunate compared to someone who isn’t sure where their next meal is coming from. I’ll admit, I wouldn’t have been able to afford a huge birthday party with all our friends and family. But we could afford to make a wonderful memory by showing our son the joy of helping others while still including our friends and family. There was joy on the faces of those who participated in the drive, and we certainly felt it, too. And although it might not be joy that the recipients will feel, we hope that we are able to at least help provide some kind of relief from some of the painful things children feel when they are hungry.
One thing I learned, having never organized a food drive before, is that helping others does not require having money to spare. There are other ways if you truly think about it. For us, it was simple…I posted an event on my Facebook page, explained what we were doing for our son’s birthday, and what NourishNC does for the children in New Hanover County. I “invited” my closest friends and family. Since I was unable to have an actual party at my home for this, I picked up donations from people in town, and others sent me money to buy groceries for them. We ended up collecting about (I’m guessing) $400 worth of food over a period of a month. We would never have been able to give that much food on our own, so we were very excited about the turnout. You might be surprised how many people there are who want to help just like you do. They just need a reason and an opportunity, and you can provide it to them by hosting a drive for those who need help.
We would like to thank NourishNC and all of the volunteers for your compassion and all that you do for the children in our community. We appreciate that you recognize that this issue is larger than hunger alone. We thank you for understanding and teaching how going hungry affects children far beyond their stomachs, but also their thinking and learning abilities, emotional regulation, self-image and their interactions with others. We will continue to help raise awareness of this issue, its true effects, and your presence as part of a solution.
There were many smiles on my son’s face related to this experience, and I loved every minute of it too. We will probably do it again…maybe every year if he wants to. Either way, we want to help support your mission, in some way or another, always.