Philanthropy for Kids: Nurturing a Giving Family

I’ve been wondering about how to explore the concept of philanthropy with my kids. I realize that such a large concept feels sort of intangible.

Planting the seeds of philanthropy

Planting the seeds of philanthropy

In one of my early blog posts, I explore the definition of philanthropy. But I now realize it goes beyond just giving your time, talent and treasure.

The concept of philanthropy encompasses how you choose to manifest your values to the world. Read more in my latest Parentmap article.

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What Is It Like to be Hungry?

I’ve never gone hungry before.

Sure, I mean, I’ve fasted and skipped a meal here and there and felt pretty hungry during those times, but I have never had to worry about where my next meal is coming from.

I’ve been thinking about this because I am aware that hunger exists all around me. I saw it in Africa and I am face to face with it again in my job. I see it in the faces of the people who go through the line at the food bank to pick up their monthly bag of food with their food stamps.

food bank

And there is not much choice beyond what is offered. The items in the picture above are samples of what might be available in any given week. In summertime, there will be more fresh produce and fruits from the farmer’s markets.

Someone I talked to last week had the opinion that there are food bank customers who have little or no cooking skills and many of them are third generation welfare clients who don’t know anything different. They just go with what is familiar and modeled for them by their caregivers.

As soon as some people get their stamps, they go to the grocery store to get their food and then with whatever is left over, use the rest at the food bank. But all too often, when the month is not quite half over, they find themselves out of food and out of luck.

Apparently, this person felt that many of them are not even interested in cooking classes and won’t participate.

He also felt that clients should go to the food bank first to see what is offered and THEN go to the grocery store. This would provide more choices and also perhaps make the supply last a little longer.

Some of these food bank customers may have had steady jobs and back then it was easy to just simply  look in the refrigerator and see what was appealing. If there was nothing appetizing, it is easy enough to go to the store and pick something up. And when that changes and they find themselves out of money, they have to plan every meal and be diligent about using every ingredient they have.

What I understood from this conversation is that it is stressful, having to manage the resources you have and to make them last until the next cycle. This stuff I am hearing and seeing is only the tip of the iceberg in my learning curve.

I take it all for granted: having food within reach and having it any time I want. I’m usually pretty good about planning our meals for the week and only go to the store at most twice a week if it is a solid meal plan. But this week I went to the store way more often than I usually do.

When I learned about these things, I actually felt ashamed of my behavior. It is all very eye-opening and humbling for me. I will say that I am now more aware of my actions and want to make more effort to be conscientious about how I spend my time and money. It is so easy to just hop in the car and dash to the grocery store for that one ingredient I am missing. And I want to make excuses: well, I was busy working and taking the kids here and there…

And I really don’t know enough about the hunger issue. I just know that I’m more aware of it and am trying to figure out how to sort through the political, social, psychological, economical complexities behind it.

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Just Do It! Be an Artist Now!

Saw this great TED talk by Young-ha Kim, a South Korean writer, about not letting anything stop you from being an artist.

He spoke of parents who played Legos with their kids, even after the kid has lost interest, and the parents kept on building and building. He said, “…the artistic impulses inside us are suppressed, not gone.”

And one time he had his students write “like crazy” and found that by urging them to write in this way, the best writing often emerges.

It was wonderful for me to see this because I often wonder about where I am going with my writing. The “devils”, as he mentions in his talk for me are:

  • Do I really have a talent for this?
  • Am I inspiring other people?
  • Are people even READING my stuff?
  • How can I find the time for this?
  • What’s the point?

And I know that writing is an art, a craft, to be molded and massaged to emerge in the shape and form I desire.

To all the wonderful writers and artists out there: you CAN do it!! Watch this video and be inspired!

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Birthday Dreams for All: Providing Birthday Parties for Children of Struggling Families

Happy New Year!

Here is my first Parentmap post of 2014. I love the idea of volunteers coming together to pull off a party for kids whose families can’t afford this luxury.

birthday dreams

Courtesy Marcia Lovin McGovern

Now that 2014 is off to a good start, I’d love to hear from you, dear reader, about what topics you’d like to see covered! Is there a person or group that has inspired you or propelled you to action? Please let me know!

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Experiencing Another Culture Without Leaving Home


If you have ever thought about hosting someone from another country in your home, this article I wrote might convince you it’s a great idea. It’s not for everyone, but it has been a fun experience for me and my family.

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Finding Joy in the Simple Things

This morning, in the car on the way to school, we were stopped at a light at an intersection just off the highway that is usually frequented by low-income or homeless people selling the newspaper, Real Change. They buy the paper with their own money-.60 cents a paper and then re-sell it for $2.00. Topics in the paper focus on poverty, homelessness, and social justice. It’s a way for folks to make some money and get back on their feet.

real change

Anyway, Willie, a Real Change vendor, is usually at this particular stop.  Willie has won vendor of the week awards. He brings joy, laughter, and smiles to me and my children each time we see him. While Willie is selling his newspapers, he is also feeding seagulls with tortilla chips. He acts like a delighted kid and breaks out into a wide toothless smile and giggles every time a gull swoops down and snatches the chip out of his outstretched hand.

Willie likes to do this fancy thing with his papers. He puts them in a fan-like arrangement and then tosses them in the air and catches them all in place! One time he was doing this and a couple papers dropped and fell over the side of the bridge. And he just laughed about it.

My kids and I talk about his delight and zest for living at this moment. I think they are intrigued by his actions and they are learning about how simple things can make you happy. As for me, I wave to Willie every time we see him and once in a while I’ll get a paper. And when he laughs, I burst out laughing too- it is infectious. And I love laughing, it brings a certain gaiety to the day and actually grounds me.

It also reminds me of the smiles and laughter of the students I taught in Malawi, East Africa during my Peace Corps stint. These impoverished people had so few material things, and yet they had so much: they had each other, a community to look one another even when no one has enough to eat. There’s always something to go around. It’s not like that here. People are often isolated and left to their own devices. There are many great organizations working to help these people, but I still feel something is missing…

I read somewhere once:

Peace Corps Volunteers who go to Latin America come back politically aware.

Peace Corps Volunteers who go to Asia come back spiritually enlightened.

Peace Corps Volunteers who go to Africa come back laughing!

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