This may have been one of those Kindness Projects that my family will remember and use for quite some time. I recently attended the parent-ed conference hosted by the San Ramon Valley Unified School District, and saw one of my favorite authors, Michelle Borba, speak. Her book Unselfie, which I have cited in past blog posts, provides nine strategies that provide kids with what she calls an “empathy advantage.” Borba’s talk was incredibly inspirational and she shared anecdotes and stories of kindness from around the world- from kids shaving their heads to show support for their friend with cancer to a young girl standing up with moral courage to help a victim of bullying. Borba also shared practical tips of how we can engage in compassion activities at home, which is also plentiful in her book. During her talk, she provided several ideas on this topic and one of them was the idea of a Family Donation Box. The Family Donation Box is really just a communal box that remains in a central location in the home, and family members can each choose to put items in the box that they want to donate. Once the box fills up, then a family can go together to donate the items to a center. Borba emphasized the importance of making the actual donation drop-off a group activity, so that kids can connect with the act of giving back.
I really like the Family Donation Box for a few reasons. For one, it is a shared box that can sit in a central location, so it is a visible reminder that giving back is important to us as a family. Second, I love the idea of being able to donate on an ongoing basis instead of waiting for one or two occasions a year when spring cleaning takes place. In fact, my husband said he usually keeps a donation pile in his own closet which he builds up until our spring cleaning time, but now with this communal box, he will transfer his items to the box. Third, since each family member can choose to place items into the box, it will empower us to make the choice to contribute. This is especially important for children and may be more effective than me telling them to pick out toys or clothes a few times a year. I’ll likely have to give small reminders to my girls about the Family Donation Box but my hope is that it is more organic and spontaneous and not a big production.
So knowing all this, we set out as a family one evening to put together our Family Donation Box. I used a wicker trunk that I had in the closet already, and to really make it a “family” thing, we decided to decorate and label the box. We came up with kind words and happy shapes to stick on. My 5-year old wrote words like “Giving” and “Caring” and my husband wrote out the phrase, “If we don’t use it, someone else could.” Even my 2-year old made little scribbles and drawings. We took all of our drawings and then used our lamination machine (yes…we have a lamination machine courtesy of my sister). And then once the pieces were laminated, we cut them out and taped them on to our basket. That was it, but just the simple decorations made it seem like it was really “our” box and not an old trunk from mom’s closet.
We’ve started accumulating a few things for our box already. My 5-year old and I even went through some of her old dishes to see if any of those were a good fit. I’m excited that the donation box will now be a staple item in our house, and I’m looking forward to seeing how we fill it and use it over the coming months and years. More blog posts to be written on the future of our Family Donation Box!