Monday, January 12, 2015

Give: My #2015themeword

December 30, 2014 was a cold day. It wasn’t snowing or below freezing – it wasn’t Michigan cold! – but by California standards, it was cold and windy. As the gusts reached 45 mph, I shoved my hands into my pockets and buried my chin into my scarf.

I had some kid-free time that day to do a little (unsuccessful) boot shopping. (Seriously, boots really should come in petites.) Next to the shoe store was a 7-Eleven, and I was in need of a little Red Bull boost to brave the cold and the crowds. Outside crouched a homeless man, attempting to shield his body from the wind behind an empty casing that used to house a pay phone.

Sadly, we have a large homeless population, especially in nearby San Francisco, so seeing this unshaven man with his shopping cart of treasures wasn’t new to me. Maybe it was the end of the holiday season, or the exceptionally cold winds, but the sight of him brought tears to my eyes. I felt humbled with gratitude because I have a house to keep my family warm, and that I could afford to stop in and buy a drink that I didn’t really need before I went to shop for boots that I didn’t really need.

I have gleaned enough knowledge from my friends with occupations in social work – and I’ve seen enough episodes of Intervention – so I make it a rule not to give anyone on the street money. But I could give the man a coffee on a cold day. So I filled the largest cup I could and collected some cream and sugar packets. I sat the coffee down at his feet and told him I wanted to help him stay warm. His enormous smile made my day way more than my small gift made his.

And that was it. I had my 2015 theme word.

I gave up on resolutions a couple years ago, and now I set a new theme word every year instead. Yes, I need to lose these last five pounds, and yes, I need to stop shopping online so much. But having a little extra in my savings account and less extra around my middle won’t make me a better person. So while I will keep setting personal goals for myself, I like starting the new year with a theme word that I can apply to many aspects of my life.

As a happy accident, my theme words are building on themselves. I’m glad I started with “choose” as my first theme word in 2013. I can choose how I react to things and how I handle situations. And while we can’t always control those initial negative feelings, we can choose to get over it and choose joy instead.

“Choose” set the stage for “kindness” in 2014. I can choose to be kind at all times, even if someone isn’t being kind back. I worked hard to demonstrate more kindness toward my kids, my husband, and even total strangers. I didn’t always succeed, but I tried to be kind to myself and remember that I am a work in progress.

“Give” is this year’s theme word. A specific form of kindness, I will actively seek out opportunities to give. Giving is easy. It feels good, and it does even more good. (Have you seen this video yet? It's a tearjerker about the goodness of giving.)

Giving and gratitude are traits I want to instill in my sons, too. Reid is still too young to understand, but I want Quinn to see me giving so I can teach by example, as well as show him ways he can give. (Here's a great article on teaching children to give.) So this year, I plan to do the following.

I will give to people in need whenever possible and use it as a teaching opportunity for Quinn.

I will come up with a charitable giving budget for the year, and we can decide as a family where our help is most needed.

I will plan an age-appropriate volunteer event for Quinn and me every other month, such as taking food to a food bank (I think he’s too young to help sort, but I will check); having him choose toys he can donate and having him actually drop them off; or picking up trash together at the park. (If anyone has any other ideas that would be appropriate for four year-olds, please share!)

Rather than simply buy gifts online, I will make the time to take Quinn down the toy aisle and have him pick out the gifts for his friends’ birthdays and then help me wrap them.

Next Christmas, I would like for our family to buy much less for each other and adopt a family instead.

I will do more favors for my loved ones and give them more of my time. I will show Quinn that we help the people who are important to us because that’s what friends and family do for each other.

I will freely give compliments, smiles, hugs, and encouragement to loved ones and strangers alike. I will do my best to make someone’s day a little brighter. (Okay, maybe I won’t hug strangers. That could get weird. And I still haven’t overcome the whole germophobe thing, so, you know, baby steps.)

So share with me, people! What ideas do you have to help me teach my sons to give and to be more giving myself? Have you also chosen a 2015 theme word? Tell me all about it in the comments.

If you have not chosen a theme word for 2015, it’s not too late! For inspiration, check out the words my bloggy tribe gals have selected.  
Cheryl at Busy Since Birth is going with “choose.” 
Kimberly at Red Shutters selected “better.” 
Lisa from Squared Mommy chose "embrace." 
Phyllis at The Napkin Hoarder picked “intentional.” 

Whether you go with theme words, resolutions or personal goals, every day is a new chance to start over. Happy belated new year, everyone!

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