Several months ago I helped organize a fundraiser for a friend's international adoption. We called the event, "Five for Five Friday." I made a video of the family and attached it to an article I wrote. We passed the article with the video around social networking sites. The main idea behind "Five for Five Friday" was that no one had to give a lot, you could give just a little, then pass the article along to five more friends.
It went like this: People read the story, watched the video, and if they felt moved, they could go to this family's blog and give a few dollars. The suggested donation was $5. Then, pass the story on to five more friends to do the same. The concept caught on with a closing figure for the fundraiser close to $1,000.
In contemplating that experience I could see the story of the widow's mite found in the New Testament, Mark 12:41-44. In this story the Savior, Jesus Christ, is watching people donate money to the treasury. As he watches he sees a poor widow cast a small coin into the bucket. Jesus turns to his disciples and tells them that she gave more than all the others because they gave the excess of their abundance, but she gave all that she had.
I understand this to mean that it isn't the amount that we give. The poor widow had very little. But what little she had she shared willingly. So it is with us. What we give to others does not have to be big, just from our heart. It is a concept I am trying to remember, and a concept I am trying to teach my children. I want my children to learn to see the people around them and be courteous. Here are a few ideas we have developed in our home.
It doesn't cost a lot of money to make a difference
Have you ever gone to a fair and as you are walking through the aisles, you see a fundraiser? Someone is selling items to help fund an adoption, some kids are trying to make some money for a school trip or maybe a family is trying to raise money to help a sick child.
I believe people struggle to give because they feel they can't give enough to help the cause. They feel compassion but they are struggling to keep their own household budget afloat in these difficult economic times. I have learned two things:
1. A kind word and an acknowledgment that you care goes a long way. If you can give a dollar or two, it lifts the spirit of the person trying to raise the money. That is important as it helps that person keep going. And if you don't have money, donating items for them to sell can help too. I have had my kids help me bake cookies to donate to fundraisers, and run a booth or table.
2. The small amount you donate multiplies. And if you share with your friends and acquaintances the cause and ask them to give a dollar or two it multiplies faster. In our home we don't have a lot of cash to give, but we give what we can and help spread the word. In our local church congregation there is a little boy who is sick. Friends and family have been selling bracelets to help offset the medical costs. We bought bracelets and have tried to help spread the word to encourage others to buy.
Random acts of kindness matter, no matter how small
It's easy with the stresses of today to get lost in your own struggles and forget that the person next to you is a person too. And that person is facing their own struggles. In your homes, your neighborhood, or society you can give encouragement by the small things you do. Your children will follow your example and do the same.
I am a believer in the ripple effect. Like the widow's mite, you can offer small acts of kindness that come from the heart. You can leave the person next to you feeling good, and they in turn will do the same for the person next to them. Here are a few ideas that you can incorporate either in your home or out.
1. You are in the grocery store and have half a cart full of items. You glance behind and see the person next in line after you only has three items. Give them a smile and let them go ahead of you.
2. Hold the door open for someone as you walk out of a building. Give them a smile and say hello. It acknowledges that you recognized they are there just a few feet behind you. It's nice to know that someone notices you are alive.
3. Notice something good your spouse or child has done, and either thank them on the spot, or leave a card for them letting them know you appreciate them.
4. Send a card in the mail to your child just to say you love them. I have a child who likes to check the mail, hoping to find something sent for them. In a day of quick email and texting, it is fun to find something for yourself in the mailbox.
5. Send a note or card to someone telling them how much you appreciate them. In fact, if you are sitting in your bench at church and have a fleeting thought of kindness for someone, grab a piece of paper and jot a quick note, then slip it to them as you pass by.
6. Say thank you to the person who is serving you in the store or restaurant. Acknowledge the good they do. Your children see this and will learn to do the same.
Like the widow's mite, anything small given from the heart can make an impact for good. Small acts can ripple and create good feelings and hope for those around us - starting in our homes, spreading into our neighborhoods, then into society at large.