A DAY OF GIVING-Part One
When my son Jake was about eight, he started receiving a commission from us. Most people like to call money to kids an allowance, but in our household it is called a commission. You must work for your money. Each day the kids have tasks that must be completed and whether they get paid depends on whether the jobs are done. This keeps everyone accountable. Anyway, when we were introducing this concept to Jacob, we also talked about such concepts as tithing and giving back.
We explained that, as a person living in this world, we need to find ways to give back. We give back with our time and with our resources. We explained that one way to give back is to give money to an organization that needs the money, which combined with other contributions, allows the organization to give back to more people. Together we researched organizations in which an eight year old boy might be interested. We talked about giving to the zoo or another animal-loving organization. We talked with him about some local charities we were involved in, and finally one struck a chord with him - The Snowball Express. The Snowball Express helps children who have lost one or both of their parents who died while serving in the military. He wanted to make things better for these children. He donated his entire commission on the spot, and we matched his donation. It wasn't a big donation, but in his eyes it was everything.
I regularly volunteer with our local USO, and I heard that the USO again was going to be helping with The Snowball Express here in Indianapolis. I knew right then that I had to be involved, and I was hoping that Jacob could be too. When I told him that the two of us were going to volunteer and help with the Snowball Express, he gasped, ran over to me and hugged me. My ten-year-old little boy was that excited about volunteering. I knew my husband Jason and I had done our jobs well.
Then came the countdown. And it was, “I can't wait until next Thursday.” And it was, “I am so excited that you and Dad are letting me do this.” Ok, not only was this kid excited about helping others, but then I told him that he got to miss a day of school! His response, “Mom, that's cool and all, but I don't really care about that. I just can't wait to volunteer!” Jason and I definitely had done our job.
The big day arrived, Thursday, December 12, 2013, and he was out of bed, all dressed, and ready to leave with no urging from me. Off we went, Jacob wearing his Santa hat and full of pure excitement. On the way to the airport, he said, “Mom, you know what one of my hobbies is?” I was ready to hear a response like building legos or annoying his sister, all of which could have been legitimate answers. Instead he said, “Helping people.” I told him that his Dad and I also loved to help people and that we were very proud of what he was going to be doing that day.
We got to the USO, had our updates, and received our boarding passes to get through security. We headed to Gate B5, where American Airlines and the Indianapolis Airport had blocked off not only gate B5, but also gates B1 through B5. We walked around a corner to see balloons, a bouncy house, people in costumes, games, and food galore. The elves had been busy the night before setting up. We knew that this was going to be a wonderful day.
Before we entered into the pomp and circumstance of it all, I stopped and reminded Jacob why we were there. I reminded him that when he saw a child there, despite all the fun and celebration, he needed to remember that the child had lost a Mom or a Dad, or possibly both. My little boy with the old soul got it. He knew why we were there and still could not wait to help.
We were set to help with the CornHole game and were eagerly awaiting the first families to arrive. The entire area was charged with the energy of pure love. People were there because they wanted to be. They delighted to be there. People were dressed in costumes of Christmas trees, penguins, gift packages, and other seasonal motifs. Everyone donned elf hats, Santa hats, or reindeer antlers. There were Colts cheerleaders and even an Indy car driver. But, honestly, it didn't matter who you were, only that we were all there for the same reason. We were there to bring some joy into the lives of the children and their families.
All day, Jacob played CornHole with any kid who wanted to play. He played with some of the boys who were his age. He helped pass out bags of treats and to clean up at the end. Every minute of the day he was smiling and radiating joy and love. Jacob raised his hand when the group was asked who was a USO volunteer. He was so proud.
And so he missed a day of school. He got to eat a donut, play games, and have some fun. What he learned that day was so much more important than a day at school. Jacob knows the meaning of giving back. He knows that sometimes the little things we can do mean the world to others. Today he took home with him the knowledge that we should appreciate what we have because it can be taken from us at any time. Jacob learned that there are actual people, people with husbands and wives and children, who give their lives to keep us safe. And today he learned that even at ten-years-old, he can make a big difference in the world.