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How a Cardboard Box Taught My Kids the True Meaning of the Holidays

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Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday: The days following Thanksgiving are all about buying, buying, and more buying. Heck, even Thanksgiving is these days; the big stores in our area opened for business at 6:00 p.m. Giving Tuesday is the perfect chaser to the commercialism, a global rally for giving back. It’s not just about donating money to a cause — it can be a do-good tweet or activity. I decided to do a simple project with the kids to get them into the true spirit of the season: collect gloves and scarves for kids in needs. It turned out to be more meaningful than I could have imagined, all thanks to a box.

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The kids started a couple of weeks ago by making fliers to hand out in our neighborhood. Together Max and Sabrina typed one up on my computer, then they signed the printouts. We also posted a notice on a local Facebook group: “If you have scarves and gloves that no longer fit your kids or are not needed, here is an easy way to donate them. Bring them to our house and leave them in the box on the porch. We will donate them to a homeless shelter. This is for Giving Tuesday.”

Doing this got a discussion going about why some kids didn’t have scarves and gloves to keep them warm in winter. Sabrina asked whether or not their parents had jobs, and I explained that sometimes people weren’t able to find work and earn money to support their families. If they could no longer pay for a place to live, they could live in a shelter for a while. We talked about how good it is that there are places around the country that help families who do not have homes.

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Sabrina decorated a cardboard box with rainbows and drawings of kids, and we set it out on the porch. Every day when the kids got home from school, they’d check the box and they’d get so excited to see donations. They didn’t count the number of scarves or sets of gloves received — they counted the number of children who’d get them. “We’re up to nine kids!” Sabrina gushed at the end of the first week. “YEAH!” said Max. One person left a jacket; another, a brand new scarf and mittens set.

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Our first donation

For three weeks, the kids kept their eyes on that box. It launched some excellent dinner conversation, including why it’s important to always help other people. “Because we have so much stuff and we are lucky and we can give it away and make other people feel good,” Sabrina said, and I felt all warm and fuzzy inside because she got it.

My son has cerebral palsy, and has been the recipient of a lot of good deeds over the years. It was amazing to empower Max to be able to give back and help him understand that he, too, is capable of helping others. He was so proud of himself whenever he’d lift a pile of scarves and gloves out of the box and bring them into the house for storage. For him, it wasn’t just a feel-good thing, it was a confidence booster as well.

Finally, we packed up all the stuff we’d received and drove four bags over to a local shelter for homeless women and children, including some toiletries like soap and hand sanitizer we’d bought because the supervisor there told us those were needed. The staffer who took the donations was extremely appreciative, and thanked the kids profusely.

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Delivering our haul

As we were leaving, one of the residents walked in wheeling a baby in a stroller. “I hope the baby gets that cute pair of dinosaur mittens,” Sabrina told me. I was glad she got to see a mom and child there, and understand that they are like any other people, except in need of a little help.

The kids decided to keep the box they decorated. It’s in our basement, and next fall they plan break it out again and do another drive for scarves and gloves. I wouldn’t have wanted to toss the box, anyway. It’s a magical box, one that helped teach my kids the real meaning of the holidays: Good will toward all mankind.

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