Giving or Receiving...Create joy from within all throughout the year.
By Linda Bausch
We have become accustomed to heralding in the ‘giving season’ right about now. Local non-profits have geared up for a giving (which also translates to receiving) campaign in which they prepare for upcoming festivities and/or to boost their coffers for the year ahead.
It isn’t only about how much we can afford to donate; it’s about sharing what we can, financially, emotionally and spiritually. Considering the circumstances of late—a reality has hit harder than usual. In my humble opinion, trying times, unbelievable high gas prices, inflation and the daily strain of, what’s next? (DON’T ASK!), are gradually, but not so discretely, wearing us down, individually and collectively. This brings me to reflect of how we give, not only during the ‘giving’ season, but each and every day. Let’s remember to also refill our own cups. Slow down, enjoy nature, smell the roses when they bloom.
Now, I want to begin by saying: Napa is the rock star equivalent of a community that works well with each other—I know I am preaching to the choir.
Start at the beginning . . . at HOME
If you want kind and compassionate kids to mature into consciously contributing adults, show them what sharing with others looks like, all the time. Children grow up to emulate what they see happening in their family. Needs do not go away once the seasonal ‘giving’ window closes. The simple act of preparing a meal or sharing a place at the dinner table; making a card for an elderly neighbor; even something as small as a kind word on a daily walk—is a loving way to teach our children compassion and empathy for others. Meeting the eyes of anyone who could use a smile or a kind word is a gift of exceptionally high value. It costs nothing to be nice.
In the Community—
Opportunities are in Abundance
Seventy-three local non-profits have been included in CanDo’s Napa Valley Give!Guide campaign, inspiring a Community of Givers. Donations as small as ten dollars, or a much as your budget allows, may be made during the month of November and beyond. Allow me a fantasy here—imagine if one person in each of the 36,000 homes which receive this beloved community magazine—donated the minimum of $10 to a charity of their choosing . . . you do the math; that’s a lot of giving back! (See their Facebook page for more information.)
Toni McIntosh, Diversion Officer with Napa Police Youth Services Bureau, gave us an important overview of one of the communities most valued opportunities in the service of ‘giving back’, Shop with a Cop. “The program began in 2006 where we served 30 youth and has been growing every year with support from the community. We hope to serve over 150 youth this year.
While most children are taught values in the home, not all children have the benefit of such upbringing. It is this group of youth who are most likely to assume negative societal roles; roles rooted in neglect or lack of concern. Many recent events are having the highest impact on these youth. Recently a study was published entitled “Children’s Perceptions of the role of Police Officers”. Youth, ages 5 to 10 were asked to comment on what police officers do when they go to work, what direct and indirect experiences they have had with the police, and the positive and negative aspects of being a police officer. The findings revealed that children emphasized the punitive role of police; very few children identified with non-punitive roles. This punitive theme was evident irrespective of the children experiences, age, and whether they could recall television shows involving police. The practical implications of the findings for police relations with children are troublesome. These youth; many who already come from shaky foundations are now unsure of what is right or wrong. This indecisiveness leads to bad choices and destructive outcomes. Breaking the cycle that leads youth to criminal behavior requires an effort by all.
“The first goal of the “Shop with a Cop-Napa” program is designed to help effect beneficial change. By teaching respect, building trust and friendship, as well as instilling values, we hope to do our part. Violence can be curbed. Children’s lives may be spared. Communities may be made safer.
“Our secondary goal through this event is to change perceptions. Now, more than ever, perceptions of law enforcement personnel must be changed. Current events have left the most vulnerable of our youth with a less than favorable impression of law enforcement personnel. We hope this event will assist in changing those perceptions.
“So how does it work? This is a holiday event sponsored by The Kiwanis Club of Greater Napa, The North Napa Target, Store and Napa Police Department. We are hoping to allow at least 100 of Napa’s neediest youth the experience of shopping for holiday gifts for their immediate family members with some of “Napa’s Finest.” The lucky youth and their law enforcement “shopperone” are turned loose in the Target store where they are able to spend up to $300.00 for gifts for their immediate family members. Volunteers gladly wrap the gifts while the youngsters enjoy treats. Of course, it is the holiday season, so every shopper also receives several special gifts as he/she leave the event.
“Most of the youth targeted have not had the opportunity of shopping for family members during the holiday season. For many, this will be a first. As a result, many of these youth have not experienced the joy of giving unconditionally. We have found this experience to have had a profound and lasting effect on some of our past recipients.”
Be Kind; kid-driven and kid-led.
The idea for Be Kind sprouted from the mind of Finkelstein family friend Laurie Phillips of New York City. Phillips became aware of the self-imposed isolation of her fellow New Yorkers and how there was very little interaction happening among them. As a way to break the ice, she made the now iconic “Be Kind” buttons and would wear them while out and about in the city. Anytime someone would complement her button, she would take it off and gift it to that person. A friendly conversation would start naturally and smiles would ensue. The buttons would then be paid forward by their new owners and are now found all over New York and the surrounding areas.
In 2015, on a trip to New York to visit Laurie, Talulah (then age 9) and Ruby (then age 7), were really impressed by these friendly interactions, so they decided to spread kindness in Napa and ordered some of the same Be Kind buttons. They now wear Be Kind buttons everywhere they go and give them to those that comment on them.
They have now given more than 20,000 of the iconic Be Kind buttons all over the world. They have also created the Kindness Kids, a youth-led group that brings together kids throughout our community to organize acts of positivity and compassion. Among their projects, they collect warm coats for those in need, prepare food for those who are hungry, and organize birthday parties for children without homes.
The Kindness Kids have spoken to school assemblies, professional groups, service groups and at large gatherings such as Napa’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Day celebration. Be Kind brings people together to spread and celebrate kindness. Be Kind is not a protest or political or religious in nature. Be Kind seeks to strengthen communities through the power of kindness.
This article barely reveals the tip of the iceberg when it comes to ideas of giving back, paying forward, or however you want to refer to fulfilling the needs of a family or a community. But in the long run, none of this gets done without all of us doing whatever we can, big or small, no amount of giving is too little or too much when given in the spirit of love.