Parents, you’ve got questions, we’ve got answers.

Or just as likely, we’ve got questions and you’ve got answers.

Challenge: Gratitude & Giving

The lunch bag movement: One way I teach my boys to value philanthropy

Vote up!
Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Email this article

Since the day my boys were born, I've worked to instill in them the importance of philanthropy.

I'm not the greatest at many facets of motherhood, but the giving back part is in my wheelhouse, and I've made it a priority from day one.

I think my oldest was 6 months old when I wheeled him into the grocery store to sponsor a Thanksgiving turkey dinner. He clearly had no idea what we were doing as he drooled on his onesie, but I was establishing a pattern that has continued 9 years later.

Throughout the years we've sponsored families at the holidays, buying all their gifts. We've even rung bells in front of Walmart wearing Santa hats and Christmas pajamas. You can imagine how many dollar bills four little boys dancing to “Jingle Bell Rock” while handing out candy canes brought in. Cash money.


Last Christmas season we went to Burlington Coat Factory and paid off the layaways of a few different families, which was another wonderful, teachable moment. Making them understand Robert Ingersoll’s quote, “We rise by lifting others” has been a cornerstone of my job as a mom, because above all else, my goal is to raise kind humans.

It wasn't until this past school year though, that I witnessed my years of trying to explain why we help others, majorly sink in, impacting not only my kids but many in our community.

Each morning on our drive to school drop off we pass several intersections, where most of the time there's a homeless person with a sign asking for help. We've driven by these individuals a lot, sometimes handing them a few dollars and other times swinging by McDonald's or Whataburger to grab them a meal.

One morning, we saw a gentleman we passed frequently who happened to be a veteran. He hobbled to the corner with a badly wounded leg. My oldest piped up from the backseat and said, "Mom, can we give him my lunch bag and I'll get food at school?"

We didn't hand off his lunch tote that morning, but when the boys arrived home from school, we talked about what we could do on a more regular basis, since we knew we'd be passing many of these people in need everyday.

"Since you're already packing us lunches, why not pack a few more and we'll hand them out on the way to school?" one of my triplets shouted out.

That afternoon, our Lunch Bag Movement was established, and in our car for the next month we carried extra brown bag lunches, filled with bottled water, apples, bagel sandwiches and more.

Words cannot express the joy my boys feel when handing out lunches through the window.

"I really like your sign," one of my boys yells with an innocent attempt to compliment and be friendly.

"Thank you for your service!" another says when I mention the man or woman is a veteran. This small act of buying a few more snack packs of chips or oranges has not only filled the bellies of those who need it most, but it's spurred many conversations within our family about how people can end up homeless and why it’s important to give back.

In choosing to pack a few extra sandwiches, my kids are getting to experience first hand the uplifting feeling of helping others, and because it's on our ride to school, we have time to reflect and chat about what in life truly brings us joy. It's a simple act of kindness that benefits everyone involved.


Related video:

This post comes from the TODAY Parenting Team community, where all members are welcome to post and discuss parenting solutions. Learn more and join us! Because we're all in this together.