24 November 2010

Gifts of Character::Helpfulness & Giving Thanks - SALE

"It is one of the most beautiful compensations of this life that no man can sincerely try to help another without helping himself."  ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Christmas is approaching and at the Prais house it was always an occasion marked by excess. There was no end to the piles of presents and the outpouring of love, not to mention the mountains of food and copious amounts to drink. We were very blessed indeed.

But a few years ago, we decided that we had enough. It was starting to be too contrived. There was no love in the buying of things or in making a list that would always include the same Bath & Body Works products {anything in the Japanese Cherry Blossom. Buy me any other flavor and it will go right back} or socks {black, for him with the reinforced toe}.

I love to give gifts. Thoughtful gifts that make me think fully about the person that I am gifting. But I would rather do it on a random Tuesday than to follow a prescribed gifting schedule that this time of the year demands. And I would rather not be bombarded by this demand as early as the middle of October {thank you very much Fleet Farm Toy Catalog.}

Helpfulness is doing useful things for others - things that make a difference to them, no matter how small.

So a few years back the adults {there are 6 of us} decided that the day after Thanksgiving we would do a little giving of our own. We took the money that we would  have spent on each other {usually $100 per family} and purchased SCRIP {fundraising program through our local Catholic Schools where you buy a gift certificate for local or national companies and the schools keep a percentage. Doesn't cost any more and I help the schools buying what I would normally} for a local grocery store. Then we gather the kids and three shopping carts. We have the recommended shopping list for the local food pantry called Operation Bootstrap. And we shop. we make it a competition to see which family can get the closest to the $100 without going over. We almost always have to go back and get more even when it seems our cart can't hold another can of pork and beans, another box of crackers or one more jar of peanut butter.

It is taking the time to be thoughtful, reflecting on what people truly need and assisting them respectfully.

I like that we started this tradition. It takes the guess work out of shopping for each other, encourages our children to recognize their plenty and celebrates the true meaning of the holiday season for me. The chance to help those who need it most. And today the need is more great than ever.

I have all I need. But if I can to do this small thing to affect the lives of another family then I am all for being helpful in this way.

We help others by doing things they cannot do for themselves.

We also support the coat drive that our local community holds. I always have a few pairs of Lands' End boots, a snuggly warm {if decidedly grimy} coat {that the local cleaners launders for free}, and the odd assortment of hats, gloves and snow pants. We give those away, too. Or the drive at Rocket's school for the Pajama Project where they get donations of new with tags pajamas and books that are then donated to kids in homeless shelters {we did that for Tiny Dancer's 8th birthday in lieu of presents}. Or this year when I donated my entire proceeds from the month of January to the Haitian earthquake relief, and Tiny Dancer asked for craft supplies for the group Haiti by Hand {we donated a huge shipping box filled with yarn, embroidery floss, fabric, and eyeglasses}. When the Children's Museum needed assistance putting up walls and cleaning up their newly renovated space, Rocket was there to help...he hung drywall and hauled materials for an afternoon. A great way to give back to a place where we used to spend some quality time when he was younger.

But it doesn't always have to be a grandiose gesture. What are some little things that you can do to help those in need?

It takes courage to ask for help when we need it.

Recently, we have been voting online in several contests that will garner much needed funds for our schools. It only takes a minute and the payoff can be huge. Would you like to help? My local alma mater, Pacelli High School, is one of four area high schools that is in the running for a $30,000 technology grant courtesy of Cellcom's Project Innovate. It doesn't matter where you are or even if you are connected to my high school, but if you are interested in helping with the vote, I would appreciate it. If you are willing to help, you can do so by clicking on this link and navigating to the lower right hand corner, clicking on "Project Innovate" and then voting for PACELLI HIGH SCHOOL. {Currently, we are in 2nd place so your vote will really help... hurry...it ends on November 30th!} And thank you very much if you do!

There is always plenty of help when we are willing to ask.

Over the summer I was voting every day for the Beads of Courage on the Pepsi Refresh project. And I click on the Breast Cancer Site's link every weekday to help fund mammograms for those who need it {and while you are there, don't forget to click for hunger, literacy, rainforest, child health and animal rescue}. recently, Tiny Dancer and I discovered Free Rice where you can play some educational games {like knowing famous works of art, or your times tables} and earn rice for those who are starving. Such a simple thing to do, but so helpful.

When we work selflessly to benefit the lives of others, we always bless our own.

There are a million ways to help. Don't get overwhelmed and think that you have to do it all. Remember that you can't do everything but you can do something. Select the something that you can do and do it with great love and you will get incredible results.

The Practice of Helpfulness

I look for little ways to make life easier for others.
I do a service without being asked.
I offer my support in respectful ways.
I give people what they need, not always what they want.
I allow others to be helpful to me.
I strive to be a blessing to others.
© Virtues Project International
To order your own set of Virtues Cards, visit Virtues Village LLC.

  • What ways do you help others? Do you organize a food drive? Ring the Salvation Army bell? Put a roof on a Habitat for Humanity home? Or just open a door for someone carrying a heavy load? Let someone with only two items cut in front of you in line at the check out? Or pay for the coffee of the next person in line?
  • What are some simple and instant ways that you know of to help others?
  • Do you allow others to be helpful to you?
  • How has your life been blessed by helping those in need?
Do tell!

To share my thanks with all of you, for being faithful readers and commenters, for your support and encouragement, for celebrating all that I have, I am offering a special discount in my newly stocked Etsy shop {more coming!}. Use the code GIVINGTHANKS2010 when you check out to enjoy 20% off anything in my Etsy shop, expires 11/30/10.

I give thanks for you!

Enjoy the day!


Paige said...

Erin, what an amazing post! And just what I needed to read this morning. :) I'm heading down to Children's Hospital Boston in a bit, with my dad, littler brother, and little sister, to deliver blankets to the children in the cardiac units. My mom and I are coordinators for the Maine branch of Cuddles from the Heart...we've been collecting blankets since February when we joined, and have over 80 to give. :) I can't wait to see the kids' faces when they get a brand new, handmade with love & prayers, blanket to cuddle with for the holidays.

Oh, and I'm bringing the resource room on the cardiac floor a big bag of beads and supplies, too. :) The coordinator and the kids LOVE beading--and I love cleaning out my stash and give the kids supplies. And I'm going to ask the coordinator if she's heard of Beads of Courage--I think it's a great program that the she and the kids would love to work with if they aren't already.

Wow that was a long post before 7:00 AM. haha. Happy Thanksgiving! :D

April said...

Hey Erin,

What a beautiful reminder for the holiday season. I don't have kids yet--but my husband and I have already discussed how we want to make the holidays about much more than giving presents when we do have children. We also try to do as much for others as possible during this time. I think helping others makes me feel better than getting a gift :)

Yeli said...

What a wonderful post. I have been involved in many events since my teenage years:

1. I was part of the Rotaract group as a teenager and we went to many places, we donated things, had baking sales, helped by lending a hand, etc. The one that touched me more was when we went to a place for abandoned babies and infants. We got there with a fridge that we were donating and with a piñata and candies for the boys and girls. We were in the middle of giving out toys when one of my friends hugged a boy. They all left the toys to get in line for a hug. So we started hugging away!

2. I spent Christmas afternoon at an asylum for the elderly serving a Christmas dinner, talking and relating to them and dancing.

3. For the last 3 years I have been donating my jewelry and free time at events held by a non-profit organization I belong to. While others are resting, meeting with friends I am at my jewelry booth raising funds.

4. The last project I have been involved in is with helping a beading friend Billy with raising funds fro his pain treatment. I have donated some jewelry to their artfire store: dragonflyjewelrydesigns. They need at least $850 for the first round of treatments.

I do not need to have money to be able to be of help. I can always give my time and put my skills to good use.

I also give service and get lots in return too. Sometimes it's true. I just need to ask!

rosebud101 said...

Erin, I knew you were a special person. BTW, I voted for Pacelli High. I have a goal for giving, and that goal is to do 3 things a day for someone else to try to make their day a little bit better. Sometimes, it is holding a door open. Sometimes, it's lighting a candle at church. Many times, it's remember that person in prayer. 3 "good deeds" a day is not a lot to work towards. There are many ways to serve!

Cindy said...

Happy Thanksgiving, Erin! You and your husband are such wonderful role models for your children, and you're sure an inspiration for all who visit your blog. Thank you for the reminders today on the many ways we can give back - big and small.

Lance said...

You are such a blessing. And know that it's a deep honor to call you friend.

May these gifts you give so freely of yourself, may they come back to you tenfold.

And - good luck to your alma mater. I'm there to support you (and them)!!!

Have a beautiful Thanksgiving with your family...

Big hugs of gratitude,

Lisa Crone said...

Happy Thanksgiving! :) The world is a much better place because you are in it!

Riki Schumacher said...

What perfect timing for a perfect post Erin. I love it. It makes me feel so great to buy someone's coffee or breakfast who looks like they need it. We do it anonymously most of the time. I love to open doors for others, especially mom's with strollers, and why isn't there more patience for the elderly. Just wait until people have to take care of an ill and elderly person! They will understand the necessity of having much patience and understanding. We're always in such a hurry.

You're insight in this post is just wonderful Erin. It reflects kindness and sacrifices you and your family honors. What a great example you are setting. You inspire me yet once again. Thank you friend. Much love,Riki

Shai Williams said...

Thank you so much for reminding me of the site to click to help. Doesn't cost anything but a bit of time.

My main thrust in giving is the animals. Because so many elderly need the companionship of their animals yet can't afford to purchase pet food, I purchase at least one big bag enough and donate it to our local food bank.

I have also started an afghan that I intend to donate once I finish it. I am not sure where yet but I know that there are places that take that kind of donation.

Jenners said...

Wonderful wonderful ideas here. I think I need to start doing something like this for my own family. And I'm off to vote for your school.

My Life Under the Bus said...

Thanks for the words of encouragement! XOXO Patty


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