‘Tis the Season for Compassion

Admittedly, I am a bit embarrassed.
It came in the mail, I put in on the counter, and before I knew it, my six-year-old had not only gone through it and circled everything she wanted for Christmas, she had rolled it up and tucked the toy catalog under her pillow.

I love this time of year.
I do.
I enjoy the wonder and the twinkle lights,
balsam and cinnamon,
comfort and joy,
a sense of hope that perhaps goodwill will trump discord.

My journey has afforded me some amazing opportunities from a degree in multicultural education, to running a non-profit, to writing curriculum for other non-profits, to starting a program for social justice minded families, to representing three countries within my own nuclear family. And the best part of every piece of it has been the people I have met and what I have learned from them about compassion – active compassion.

Here is my offering to you this holiday season.
Here are some ways, through collective voices,
we can participate in compassion with
our families,
our communities,
our global village.


As many of you already know and have experienced, the months of November and December are very important to the non-profit sector, as their very existence can depend on the amount of donations they bring in at the end of the year. Social media has allowed for more widespread fundraising options through campaigns such as Kickstarter and GoFundMe.
How can we go about leveraging fundraising as a family?
Before listing some sites that I love for encouraging familial fundraising, one very important lesson I have learned over the years is this::

Create a fundraising campaign in which your kids learn that
being inconvenienced is commensurate to compassion.

Consider going beyond designing a fundraising page in which your child asks for a certain dollar amount to be raised on behalf of your favorite organization by a certain date. Consider requiring your child to give up something in the process. For example, perhaps your child could  rake leaves for all the neighbors at $4/hr. and all of that money will go toward his/her fundraising campaign.
Or, for every $20 donation, your child (or your family) will volunteer one hour at a local food bank.
This type of fundraising goes beyond an “ask” for money and becomes an opportunity for families to engage, learn, and grow, flexing that muscle of compassion.

Here is a very NON-exhaustive Top Ten List of some organizations that are a wonderful springboard for families to practice compassion over the holidays. I hope that you, dear Reader, will consider commenting on this post and adding your own findings.

1. Charity Water 
2. IJM’s Gift Catalog
3. World Vision 
4. World Relief
5. Boys and Girls Clubs of America 
6. Make-A-Wish Foundation
7. A local Homeless Shelter. Click here for a directory. Call and ask what their current needs are, both financial and tangible.
8. A local Food Bank. Click here for a directory. Call and ask what their needs are, both financial and tangible.
9. The Humane Society. Call your local branch and ask what their needs are, both financial and tangible.
10.Toys For Tots AND Canines for Kids (too many good ones to choose from!)

One of my favorite parts of the holiday compassion process is in the brainstorming. I love to sit down as a family and ask my kids what needs they have observed in the world around them and how we as a family might respond. I am always surprised by what my children have noticed. We create a Top Ten List of the what and where of it all, and inevitably there is something rather unattainable on that list, such as a desire to take a wounded elephant into our home and rehabilitate it.

After that list is compiled and we have narrowed it down, we may decide to fundraise on behalf of an organization like mentioned above, or we may decide to get creative in other ways. I asked around, and here is again, a non-exhaustive Top Five List of creative ways my family and others have offered compassion over the holiday season.

Creative Compassion::

1. Ragamuffin Backpacks::
I know. It is a silly name. My kids and I like to fill backpacks with snacks, toiletries, warm socks, gift cards, mittens, etc., a hand-written note or drawing, and pass them out to people in need. We call them “Ragamuffin” because it is important to me to preserve dignity in another and humility among ourselves. I explain to my kids that we are all ragamuffins. Sometimes, as ragamuffins, we can find ourselves without a home or a meal or a ____________, and therefore by passing out our ragamuffin backpacks, we can participate in helping out one another when those needs arise. We keep one backpack as a symbol that we may be in need of a ragamuffin backpack ourselves at some point and time.

2. Leveraging the Family Business::
Over the years, I have watched as numerous people I know leverage their business to help their communities. I have watched as a mother/daughter team used the mom’s photography business to provide free professional photos to single moms, or a family in the jewelry business who work together to provide bracelets to cancer patients, to a family that owns a catering business and their kids help cook and deliver free, gourmet meals to shut-ins on Christmas Eve. The options are endless.

3. The Quiet Response::
A friend was recently telling me about how her family and a few others at her kids’ school responded to some tangible needs of her kids’ classmates. Similar to the ragamuffin backpack idea, the families surreptitiously responded to the needs of families without drawing attention to those families AND in such a way that it was anonymous. I love how this community found a way that not only kept the dignity of those in need in tact, but also did not create a hierarchy nor required kids to expect to be thanked – a key component to compassion.

4. Committing for the Long Haul::
One common criticism of this time of year is the conundrum as to why the Season of Giving is just that – a season. On response to that, I am a huge fan of smart sponsorship. What I mean by this is taking the time to research and wisely choose a way to sponsor a child or school in such a way that one can afford to do so for an indeterminate, ongoing amount of time. The holiday season is a time where this sponsorship can even be a gift given to one’s children. Understandably, it is not as glittery and full of fanfare as the new lego set, or in my family’s case – the illustrious Beanie Boo – but it can be a way for a family to continue that ignited holiday compassion into an around-the-year way of being.

5. Rallying Your Sphere of Influence::
I have a friend who has rallied her community to help provide Thanksgiving meals for those in need. She and her family have volunteered to be the hub for which all the meals are to be dropped off. She and her family will then take on the task of delivering those meals. This woman has a huge network and therefore will have no trouble reaching their 3000 goal mark (yep – you read that correctly). We all have a sphere of influence – a place in which we have community and an opportunity to come together and be the hands and feet of compassion together. The adage “many hands make the burden light” is a powerful force when compassionate families work together.


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