To Give Is to Receive

August 17, 2021

I love Thanksgiving. Last year I wrote a blog entitled, Imagine: Thanksgiving Every Day. I suggested ways we could express gratitude daily in our own families. Now, I’ll share ways we can create Thanksgiving every day for other children, their families, and communities.

This offering comes out of an experience that moved me to tears, which at first I couldn’t account for. I was donating money to Donor’s Choose. This is a non-profit organization where teachers, many located in high-poverty schools, make “pitches” for their classroom needs. As I read their stories, the teachers’ love for their students was palpable. My heart opened and I found it exhilarating to give. I didn’t want to stop.

  • My heart opened and I found it exhilarating to give. I didn’t want to stop.

I could easily imagine what a difference these supplies would make today and since I chose renewable items, I could see that my gift would touch students for years to come. It thrilled me that children from low-income homes could enjoy the benefits of high tech teaching opportunities. It seemed so fair.

The collaborative process strengthened the experience: invisible partners contributed what they could afford and collectively we reached the goal. It was so simple, so democratic.

But Why So Many Tears?

Surely, something deep within me had been stirred. But what? Education ranks high on my list of values. I used to teach children; now I teach parents through my courses and book. I believe all children deserve to have a good education. I contribute to my grandchildren’s education—and now I’m actively contributing to other children’s education. This two-pronged approach felt so good, so right.

And there was more. I was healing a personal wound. Giving back was not a part of my childhood experience. Friends who actively and zealously offer their time and energy to causes they believe in often have parents who modeled this throughout their lives. I admired them, yet felt different.

Although I had been donating to non-profits for decades, nothing felt as exhilarating as giving to Donor’s Choose. As I selected each gift I was imagining that I could break a cycle—and create a new one. I gave the money under my grandchildren’s names. They received the thanks: the children’s drawings and the older students’ letters, which their parents read to them. In a small way their whole family was involved. Now I understood the tears!

There Were More to Come

Months after the donations were made and the thanks were received, I found myself crying again. These tears came when I was thinking about donating again and imagining that my grandchildren would be with me. We would be a team, deciding which gifts we wanted to give. They would have the childhood experience I never had—and an experience I couldn’t offer my own son.

This is exactly what we did. My older grandson understood what was happening and the little one was quite attentive. At the end seven-year-old Gavin beamed, “I like giving.” Then he added, “When I earn a free book from my school because I read ten books on my own, I’ll give the new book to you, Grammy. You can give it to kids who aren’t as lucky as me.” Then came the tears of bliss. My favorite!