One of our favorite books about giving and kindness is The Mitten Tree. In the story, an old woman named Sarah is lonely, and loves to watch the local children playing outside. She notices one boy has cold, glove-less hands, and begins to knit gloves for the kids, pair by pair. She works her way through a rainbow of yarn, and knits enough mittens to adorn an entire tree. This colorful gift of warmth is discovered by the delighted kids at the bus stop one morning.
The kindness doesn’t stop there. It comes full circle, as someone leaves Sarah a basket of yarn to fuel more gifts of mittens. My two boys guess and guess at who these mysterious benefactor could be – the kids? A neighbor? A parent? The school bus driver?
The Mitten Tree is a lovely story to read with a mug of hot cocoa. It’s also a tale that can inspire kids to create mitten trees of their own, an especially appropriate, and fun, way to give back during the super chilly weather.
Sorting through gloves and hats, picking up a few more pairs, and then hanging them in a place where people can find them presents a fun family philanthropy project perfect for the winter months. Just be sure to make a sign to invite people to take a pair. In Colorado Springs, one family has created a mitten fence – they’ve left hats, gloves, and neck warms in bright colors next to a sign that invites cold passersby to take one. What a great way to brighten up the winter!
Or, if you’d rather keep in more low-key, you can simply collect new or gently used hats, gloves, wool socks, and scarves, and then deliver them to your local homeless shelter. It’s an easy way to start 2014 in the spirit of giving and random acts of kindness.