I am a mum of two. My eldest, Harry, is three and is looking at the world around him with innocent eyes, soaking it all in like a sponge. I am keenly aware of the importance of feeding him an alternative message this season. And this became all too clear to me last week.
It was Sunday morning and my boy was in the full throws of a tantrum. It was a long and lingering one – the type neither he nor I had a clue what it was about (although I suspected it had something to do with his 5.30am wake-up call that morning). I zoned out and sipped my tea, trying to find inner peace despite the wall of noise coming from his direction on the kitchen floor. Suddenly my ears pricked up.
“What was that Harry? Say it again?” I asked in disbelief. I’d heard correctly. Harry’s tears and fury were now drawing from the total injustice of his friend, Noah, having all five superhero dolls in the Justice League collection when he himself only has one. Harry who has boxes and boxes of toys, two bikes, a scooter, a trampoline, a loving family, a home, his health…
I led Harry into the lounge and pulled a photobook off the shelf of my time in a Zambian orphanage in 2009. As I showed Harry the photos of the beautiful children smiling at us in their rags, I explained to him that they sat in the dirt all day and played with stones. I told him they had no mummies and daddies and very few toys and yet they are the happiest children I had ever met. As tears rolled down my cheeks I waited for Harry to speak, to show me he understood at some level what I was trying to communicate.
“But mummy…” he looked up. “It’s not fair! Noah has all the superheroes and I only have one!!!”
Sigh. This was going to take a while.
Why am I telling you all this? Well, as the Community Fundraiser at One25 I am constantly amazed and inspired by the goodness I see in people taking on a challenge or holding events to raise money for the most vulnerable women in our city. Each year there are so many of you and your passion and commitment is incredible. But today I came across something that stopped me in my tracks.
The Storey family – Lottie and Mike and their five children, aged 6 to 11 years – are raising money as a family for five Bristol charities involved with homelessness, including One25.
Lottie explains on her blog how the idea came about:
I wish everyone had a home’, said my six-year-old on New Year’s Eve. We live near a pedestrian bridge in Bristol that’s one of the main thoroughfares across the river. As such, homeless people often sit on the bridge asking for money. Kids are so good at cutting through the nonsense to ask the important questions and state things in a way that can’t be ignored. We stop and chat when appropriate, helping with food or money when we can but it never feels like enough.
The Storey family want to make a difference. And they are doing it in the most creative and delightful way. My heart melted a little as I visited their online ‘shop’ where we are told son Stanley will draw us a superhero or cartoon of our choice for a £5 donation; Florence will make us a batch of cupcakes with buttercream icing for £10 and, perhaps my favourite: ‘Our crack team is here to help around the house with any chores, from mowing the lawn to washing the car, from doing your grocery shopping to cleaning windows. £20 for an hour’s work!’
What a way to teach your children that life is bigger and far more meaningful than the ‘stuff’ you have and ‘stuff’ you want! That £5 donation towards little Stanley’s cartoon drawing could give a home-cooked meal to a hungry woman in One25’s drop-in. Stanley is using his talents to give nourishment to the hungry. How amazing is that?
And it got me thinking. How many of you mums and dads of small people out there feel the same way as me? Who of you are trying to steer your children on the right path, away from the dead-end street of chasing more ‘stuff’ and wanting more, more, more without stopping to be thankful of all they have or giving a thought for those who are without? And if we’re honest, who else needs reminding of that too every now and then?
I wanted to shine a spotlight on the Storey family this week as we fast approach Christmas, to offer you all a creative solution to the madness. An ingenious way to navigate your family through the glitz and (sometimes) grotesque season before us. A way to pool your family’s creative resources together to bring renewed meaning to the festive period and give to those around us who have so little. There’s certainly nothing new in ‘giving’ but I think the Storey family are doing it especially well and their idea could be rolled out far and wide.
If you would like to create your own family fundraising page for One25 this Christmas you can do so simply by setting up a fundraising page on Virgin Money Giving. Use your page to tell the world what your family is prepared to do this festive period to help a woman escape the streets and find hope for her future. Like the Storey’s, you could offer your skills, time and hard graft in return for donations. Or you could pick a sponsored challenge to do as a family – check out our ideas. And have fun with it!
The Storey’s are over two thirds of the way to their goal of raising £500 and are already planning what they will do next year. Lottie’s advice to me and to you is, “Give it a go! It opens up really interesting, important conversations with kids and I hope it will set a good example for them to be kind to others in the future.”
It seems like a win win to me. Who’s with me?