Friday, December 18, 2009


I just could not stand the idea of one more Bakugan in our house.

I'd decided at the last minute to have a small party for Sawyer's sixth birthday. Nothing fancy (or expensive). Just pizza and cupcakes at the park after school.

I knew I'd be asked what he wanted for a gift, and since all he wants are Bakugan, I knew I had to come up with something else.

Thing is, this kid needs nothing. He already has a bazillion Bakugan (if you have no clue what they are, be thankful. They're magnetic plastic balls that open up into characters, and they battle with cards that are worth certain points. Makes no sense? You really want to know? Then click here). He does play with them, but seriously. Enough already. I also was not excited about how whiny he's become when he asks for a new toy and we say "No." Tears, the whole bit.

My child was ungrateful. It rankled.

So I decided that in lieu of presents, I would find a charity for which to collect donations. When you don't belong to a temple or church, it's a little more challenging to find ways to help.

I asked my friend who seems to know a lot about different charities. She sent me a list. I researched all of the organizations. Some were all about toys - which was great, but I thought it might be asking a lot of a just six year-old to see the toys - and then have to give them away.

I chose South County Outreach, a local charity that includes a food bank. I drove down there to check it out, and got a tour of the food pantry.

It's really amazing. They're helping around 900 families a month. The economy has not been kind. Clearly not everyone in Orange County is living like those women in The Real Housewives.

I told Sawyer the plan. At first he wasn't too enthused, but once we got to talking about how he'd be helping kids who didn't have food, he got on board.

I sent an email to all the parents of the kids Sawyer invited, asking if they would consider donating. A few brought a gift for Sawyer anyway, but everyone brought canned and boxed food items.

A neighbor also donated two big bags of books and another bag of toy cars and trucks - SCO likes to keep a selection of books and toys for kids who come in with their parents and have to wait, sometimes for more than an hour, while their parents fill out paperwork. The children can then take a toy or book home.

Today was the first chance I had to take Sawyer and Sage down to the food pantry to donate our items.

I told them that they were about to do something really important. I'm not sure they entirely got it. They've never had to worry about where their next meal was coming from. They've never had to do without - unless you're talking about a trip to Target where they weren't allowed to buy anything.

I backed the car up to unload. There were many families waiting in line, as it was the last day to pick up their Christmas dinners and gifts for the kids. There was a very happy little girl who'd just learned she could take home a used stuffed Barney.

I took out bag after bag of food from the car. They weigh all the donations for tax receipt purposes.

Our total? Sixty-two pounds of food donated. Thanks to Sawyer. I was very proud.

We took a short tour of the pantry so I could point out to the kids all the shelves of food and all the volunteers sorting all the donations.

Then it was on to the front office so we could arrange the books. As we were finishing, a woman came over. Her son loves Thomas the Train. She was thrilled as I handed her a book about him, and then picked another for her daughter.

We left. Of course I was happy, but you know, you always wonder what more you can do. There were so many families, with little kids. Grateful for a book, a toy, a can of corn, a box of spaghetti.

Not just a lesson for my children. It's a lesson for me, as well.

Blessings count.


kirsten said...

wow! what a fantastic idea. I think we might do that for birthdays this year. The invitations from preschool are starting to say 'your presence is B's present' which is a nice start, but I like the idea of paying it forward...

Jennifer said...

I love this idea. With Ethan's birthday falling between Sinterklaas (big gift holiday in Belgium) and Christmas, this will be a perfect way to teach the kids about giving. He already gets so many things between the two big holidays that it really does feel like too much once you add his birthday in too.

Cheryl said...

Glad you like the idea! Of course, now I feel like I'm overcompensating for Christmas..;)

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