A Helping Hand

Tis the season to be grateful for our many blessings.  It’s also the time of year when we’re reminded that it truly is better to give than receive.  Canned food drives, clothing collections and caroling at the local nursing home - all activities that are frequently associated with the holidays.

What if that giving attitude could be sustained throughout the year?  As the frenzy of holiday shopping and preparations begins, let’s get a jump start on our new year’s resolutions.  While we’re enjoying our Thanksgiving feasts and taking turns saying what we’re thankful for, let’s also resolve to think more of others and less of ourselves.

It’s often said that giving starts at home.  Encouraging children to be kinder to those nearest and dearest to them is the simplest way to incorporate a more altruistic mindset in your children.  Tween girls may enjoy Lend a Hand: Girl-sized ways of helping others (J 155.232 L962L), a title from American Girl publishing.  It offers a variety of activities for helping close to home or far across the globe. 

At home …

Doing things before they’re asked – get started on homework, putting things back in their place, bringing dinner dishes to the sink or loading the dishwasher.

Making a parent or sibling feel special –writing a note of encouragement for a parent before a big day at work or helping a younger sibling study for his spelling test.

Being a good listener – if a friend seems sad or frustrated, lend and ear.  Give your full attention, don’t interrupt and be ready with a hug or tissue if there are tears.

Around town…

Give up your seat in a crowded waiting area or on public transportation.  My boys got a lot of practice with this on our trip to Disney last summer when we frequently found ourselves on a crowded shuttle in and out of the parks. 

Holding doors open, especially for moms with strollers or for someone whose hands are full.  These occasions also allow for tangent discussions on basic good manners, showing respecting to elders, and if you have boys, how a gentleman treats a lady, they’ll thank you later .

Another source for ideas is The Unofficial Handbook of Good Deeds from DK Publishing (J 177 B936U) which is full of great suggestions, big and small, to help kids think beyond themselves.  One suggestion is to talk with your child’s teacher about adopting a classroom project (page 56).  Projects like canned food drives, or collection of items for a children’s hospital or homeless shelter can be further motivated by friendly competition between classrooms.  By making it a group effort, it’s less overwhelming and more fun.  The greater Cleveland area has many worthy organizations that welcome donations of both items and service time such as The City Mission http://www.thecitymission.org/home and Providence Househttp://www.provhouse.org/ while University Hospital /Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital has many on-site volunteer opportunities including a summer program for teens http://www.uhhospitals.org/case/about/volunteer-services/summer-youth-volunteer-program .

Because so many kids have a soft spot for animals, consider volunteering or donating at local animal shelters.  This is also a nice way for kids without pets at home to get their “furry fix”.  Kids can offer to walk an elderly neighbor’s dog or take care of a pet while they’re on vacation.  If this becomes a paid activity, consider donating all or a portion of the money to a shelter.  For kids who are crafty, Kids Care! 75 ways to make a difference for people, animals and the environment by Rebecca Olien (J177.7 O46K) has some cute crafts to make for pets.  The cloth mouse (page 35) and the cat tickler (page 39) for cats, the personalized pillow (page 42 for cats or small dogs), the ball flinger (page 43) and the stuffed bone (page 44) for dogs are all easy crafts that can be made and donated.  

And since this is also the time of year for baking cookies, consider making some Homemade Dog Biscuits. Find this receipe on page 47 in Kids Care!

1/3 c margarine, softened

1 c uncooked oatmeal

3 1/2 c whole wheat flour, plus extra for rolling

1 egg

1/2 c milk

1 c shredded cheddar cheese

1 c chicken broth

Soften the margarine in large bowl. Mix in the oatmeal and 1 c of the flour until crumbly. Stir in egg, milk and chicken borth. Then add another cup of flour. Stir in the cheese and remaining flour a little at a time until well mixed. Sprinkle a clean surface with flour and roll out dough 1/2" thick and cut shapes with cookie cutters.

Place on greased baking sheet and bake at 325 degrees for 25-30 minutes. Remove from sheet with spatula and let cool completely on rack.  Store in paper bag in the refrigerator to keep fresh and crunchy. Makes approximately 18 biscuits.

Again, these are projects that would be great for groups like Scouts, or in the classroom, to create a large batch for donating. Check out Cleveland Animal Protective League http://clevelandapl.org/donate/our-wish-list/ for donation and service opportunities.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!


Let’s Grow: Lend a Helping Hand (DVD) JD Let’s Grow: Lend

Gaby, Lost and Found by Angela Cervantes

Marie-Grace Makes a Difference by Sarah M. Buckey (an American Girl book)

Be Thankful: Peanuts Wisdom to Carry You Through by Charles M. Schulz  J179.9 S388B

Learning How to Be Kind to Others by Susan Kent  J177.7 K37L

Caring Counts by Marie Bender J 177.7 B458C


For teens...

Volunteering Smarts: How to find opportunities, create a positive experience and more  Y302.14 D687V

The Outside of a Horse by Ginny Rorby YA

Now is the Time for Running by Michael Williams YA

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