This year we decided as a family to start some new traditions as well. I have realized how incredibly fortunate we are as a family to have a house over our head, food on the table, good health, family, friends and the means to enjoy the holidays. Not so many others around the world are so fortunate, even in Minnesota.
Per a Star Tribune article 11/17/11, “Fifteen percent of Minnesota children, or about 190,000 of them, were living in poverty last year, an increase of about 18,000 from 2009, according to a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau”. Poverty is defined as an annual income of below $21,947 for a four-person family. The dire economic conditions have even hit Minnesota which has tragically impacted children. It is estimated that the rate of children living in poverty as increased 56 percent since 2000 according to the American Community Survey.
With the holidays just around the corner and my young children constantly asking for this and that new toy, I thought it was time to do something to raise awareness in my children that:
a. Christmas is not just about the toys and getting things.
b. There are many children out there around the world who do not have even half of what they have, even in Minnesota.
c. They are spoiled.
d. It is my job as a parent to encourage them to understand all this stuff, even if they are only five and seven years old.
That said, my mother had the wonderful idea of starting a new family tradition this year: Toys for Tots (www.toysfortots.org).
The mission and goals of the U.S. Marine Corp’s Toys for Tots program is as follows:
MISSION: The mission of the U. S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots Program is to collect new, unwrapped toys during October, November and December each year, and distribute those toys as Christmas gifts to needy children in the community in which the campaign is conducted.
GOAL: The primary goal of Toys for Tots is to deliver, through a new toy at Christmas, a message of hope to less fortunate youngsters that will assist them in becoming responsible, productive, patriotic citizens.
(Above information taken from their website at: www.toysfortots.org).
What I like best about this program is the nature of giving back to children during the holidays. Let’s face it, Christmas is about family but it is also about giving. Giving love, support, joy and yes, gifts. Of course, toys are materialistic in a sense but all kids want and desire toys. To think of a child not able to receive a single gift under his or her tree is a sad thought. Obviously children need food, shelter, care and love. Yet, Christmas is that one time of year when kids are dreaming of Santa and his sleigh full of presents. It is all around them: On TV, in movies, in newspapers, at the mall. Christmas and its treasures are unavoidable. So, for the sake of the children, I believe that Toys for Tots is a wonderful program and I am happy to be a part of it.
Last week, I took my children shopping to the store specifically for Toys for Tots. Our mission was to spend $100 on Toys for Tots donations. I had my son pick out $50 worth of toys for a boy and my daughter pick out the other $50 worth for a girl. There were a few complaints from my five-year-old but overall it went pretty well. The kids enjoyed picking out the presents for the children and I sincerely hope that they understood something about the meaning of what we were doing.
There are numerous locations around the city for Toys for Tots donation drop-off. We decided to have my son bring the donation to his local Cub Scout meeting. Did he get it or understand? I can’t be certain. Yet with time and continuity, down the road I am confident that the meaning of Toys for Tots and giving back will become second nature.
Stay tuned…more soon! Back to China….