Happy May! I have a son turning nine years old this month. My daughter and I completed three days of sixth grade camp- I had sore legs and a happy heart. Our niece will graduate high school in Northwest Iowa. School will continue on until June 14- so we have to be a little patient yet for summer break…
Happy April! Spring! We love its arrival in Michigan.
#TalkJustice with your family this month. Here are some great resources and discussion starters to use.
Spring Cleaning: Don’t forget that your donations to Goodwill or other non-profits create jobs! April 2, Uber and Goodwill partnered in some cities to pick up donations. What other organizations would you love to see work together?
Mental Health: The public library often offers a haven to homeless populations. Learn how the San Francisco Public Library is offering mental health services on-site.
Prison System: A jail where inmates and abandoned animals find a second-chance. I bet kids would have some wonderful insights after looking at the photographs.
Refugees: Greek residents of the island of Lesbos are being recognized for their efforts to help refugees. I love their straight forward quotes on the issue. “we are monsters if we don’t do this– why should we be given a prize for being human beings?”
Disability: From Christianity Today how her son’s autism changed one Mom’s church. How can we extend welcome?
Hunger: Food goes to waste while people are hungry. Some countries are trying to change that. What do you think?
Thinking outside the box:A laundromat owner washed the clothing and bedding of families at a homeless shelter during Easter week. A small gift that saved money, time, and offered dignity to families.
Sports and Development: Read about how sports can be a powerful development tool. Ask your kids what they have learned on sports teams or playing games with friends. I am looking forward to the world coming together for the Olympics this summer.
Global Education: Preschool teacher Davinia James raises money for Girl Rising and global education by collecting pennies. Even the smallest offering can make a huge difference!
Earth Day, April 22, 2016: In honor of Earth Day pick a short movie from the Story of Stuff to watch with your family.
Finally, I am so excited to reveal some great #TalkJustice events coming this summer. Check back next week to see how we can partner together to make a difference!
While you are waiting for spring to arrive #TalkJustice together!
March Madness: Fill out a charity bracket with your family! Win up to 100,000 for the charity of your choice. Such a fun idea! Shelterbox: Learn about ShelterBox together. What started out as a Rotary Project for disaster relief in England has expanded globally. Each ShelterBox includes a relief tent, thermal blankets, groundsheet, water storage and purification equipment, solar lamps, cooking utensils, a basic toolkit, mosquito nets, and a children’s activity pack.
@ShelterBox, Photographer: Rebecca Novell
Sacrifice: Read this article about a couple who foregoes their dream boat to pay for the college tuition of an entire kindergarten class. Talk about the difference between needs and a wants. What could your family sacrifice that might make a difference to someone else?
Dignity: A soup kitchen disguised like a restaurant offers dignity to the homeless in Kansas City. Read the article and talk about how they are building community, treating others with dignity, and offering hope.
Clean Water: 10 things women and girls could be doing instead of collecting clean water from ONE.
Breaking Down Myths: SNAP benefits are not always enough to keep families in need fed. 1/3 of families using SNAP still have to visit food pantries to bridge gaps. Talk about hunger and stereotypes to accepting assistance.
Food Waste: Sign a pledge as a family to curb food waste with Feeding America.
How do we #TalkJustice with our kids during this election year?
These are the things I want my kids to know and understand.
Voting. I remember walking into the voting booths of my small town and helping slide the heavy curtain shut. Voting is important. The definition of suffrage is the right to vote in political elections. Suffrage sounds an awful lot like the word suffer. People suffered to ensure our right to be heard. When you cast your vote take your kids along.
Respect. No one wants to feel stupid for their opinions. If we disagree with one another, and we will, how can we engage in love? Can we disagree and still respect one another? Yes, conflict is uncomfortable, no one really loves it, but there are ways to approach disagreement in love.
No one is perfect. We are not perfect people. Our political candidates will not be either. They have made past mistakes. They will make future mistakes. No one person can please everyone in the country. No one can change everything for the better.
Think for yourself. Maybe you identify with Republicans or Democrats, but that doesn’t mean you can’t think for yourself too. Read from various news sources. Be an independent thinker. Consider both points of view.
Kindness is still important. I can’t imagine a Jesus who steamrolled others to get to the top. He became nothing, that we might have life. Name calling. Exclusion. Rudeness. Demeaning the work of others. We teach our children not to do it, nor should we for any reason.
Standing in the Gap. In seventh grade social studies we are currently learning about the beginning of our nation and the constitution. The argument concerning the amount the government should be involved in our lives started hundreds of years ago. There are no easy answers, but if a safety net of assistance is removed or lessened, someone needs to stand in the gap. I would love that to be the church. Statistics show that 5% of adults in the United States tithe. This is an article from Relevant What Would Happen if the Church Tithed?
Open Hands. I try to remember that Jesus met others with open hands. He didn’t protect himself, even from death. I want to open my hands like Jesus did. He didn’t judge, build walls, or only pick privileged and powerful. He denied convention and associated with those that were considered sinners.
The Fear of Different. There is a certain candidate in this election that has not been kind to a majority of the American people. Numerous times people have said they support him because, he says what everything is thinking, but just doesn’t say. If this is the truth, we need to be honest that there is underlying fear and hatred for what is different. I work at, and my kids attend a diverse school. Most of our communities are diverse and our schools reflect this. Ethnically. Religiously. Socio-economically. When we talk about slavery, civil-rights and suffrage, the kids are surprised and saddened. They don’t necessarily understand a world where these things occurred. They are our example right now. Different can coexist. Different does not lessen our beliefs. Different does not threaten our well-being.
Refining. When Kris was in seminary we job shared. Being married and working together is a careful balance. We did not always agree. Honestly, we argued a fair amount. We would lay it all out and then construct our best ideas back together. What we ended up with was always so much better than what we could have came up with individually. We need leaders that will listen to one another. We need leaders that will work together. We need leaders that are humble enough to be refined by others.
Honesty. There are Christians that are Republican. There are Christians that are Democrats. This stuff is not easy. Look at world history. We have not been kind to one another whether publicly or in our heads. I work with kids all day. Our kids hear us. They repeat what we say. They see your memes. Hear your laughter. They are fiercely loyal. What do you want them to hear?
Pray. That we might all have courage and be kind.
What do you most want your kids to know this year?
As we gather to read the Christmas story this season, remember that Jesus was a refugee. Consider changing the conversation at Blessing Not Burden. If you are in the Holland area attend our playgroup coming this January (facebook event page). For older kids download the app My Life As A Refugee to open up the conversation.
Holiday Kindness Toolkit
A mega list of holiday kindness ideas from Pennies of Time. Including, our kindness options for Elf on a Shelf.
Our monthly #TalkJustice as a family usually shares ten ideas. This month we will stick with five, so you can spend lots of time doing our last idea…
The perfect way to make a difference this season is to just simply slow down with your family.
If all we are is noise and busy, we leave no space to notice, where we might love.
What will you be taking notice of this holiday season?
Happy Thanksgiving Week! I’m so very thankful for all of you.
This past week we participated in The Big Read, Holland Area in partnership with Herrick District Library and Hope College for a Give Back to Veterans Playgroup. We made cards for A Million Thanks and saw some things soldiers carried. The artwork of West Ottawa students blew me away.
Once again the playgroup surprised me. Our night ended up being cold and rainy and the turn out was not what had been expected. I was sharing that disappointment with my dear friend. Later that night I had to text her, you wouldn’t believe the artwork on these cards I told her. The messages inside were even more stunningly beautiful. It’s not about the numbers, it is about the heart that goes into it. You won’t see this girl giving up anytime soon.
I know everything around us is disappointing, disheartening, and even scary right now. We don’t all agree.
But, we can still love each other. That’s really all that matters. Let’s not give up on each other. Don’t for a minute give up on yourself either.
Someday, I’m going to have a story about setting up these playgroups with my Mom, and watching a handful trickle in, and sharing my insecurities with Julie… feeling not good enough. Maybe if the person leading them were a better version of me… God saying no, it is you I need. I’m just going to use them my way, not yours.
And I am thankful, because I know he redeems. He uses us, even when we feel un-usable.
I am thankful for you. You are all brave.
You are strong at the things that only you and you alone can do for God. That is beautiful.
This past Thursday, The Office of Social Justice had a launch party for the Immigrants are a Blessing not a Burden Campaign at the Holland Museum. Your family can join in too. Visit the website to Sign, Share and Wear! My family shared below, as you can see immigrants are very dear to us. Open up conversation with your kids. Immigrants are all around us deepening our lives and contributing to our communities.
Holiday Kindness Camp
What?! How is it mid-October already? The leave are beginning to change colors here, which is beautiful and also a little bit of a bittersweet feeling to me, because I know winter is lurking. If you look at a calendar you know holiday preparations and fun will be filling our weeks soon. Join the sequel to Kindness Summer Camp, Holiday Kindness Camp. We’ll be giving out great ideas to incorporate kindness for five weeks in November and December.
Fall #TalkJustice Playgroups
If you are local, don’t forget our upcoming fall #TalkJustice playgroups, a veterans playgroup in partnership with Herrick District Library and Hope College’s Big Read, and a playgroup benefitting Kids Food Basket in partnership with Grace Episcopal Church. Join the Facebook Event Page to get updates!
Get ready for #GivingTuesday, this year on December 1, 2015. Talk about what organization or family you might like to support. Make plans ahead of time to be able to make it a reality on Dec. 1.
Watch the movie trailerHe Named Me Malala, the story of Malala Yousafzai shot by the Taliban for attending school, and later winning the Nobel Peace Prize for her activism. If you have read the book, you will also see reflected in the movie the strength of Malala’s Father. He broke conventional beliefs to make education for Malala and other girls a priority. As adults we make a difference when we talk about justice with young people.
Consider trick or treating for UNICEF! Or maybe matching the number of treats your kids collect to a family donation. $15 provides safe drinking water for a year to a child. $30 provides Measles protection to 100 kids. Just $5 provides five meals to a hungry child. I’m going to have Ant Man and Scarlet Witch this year!
October is Fair Trade Month
Check out the Buy Fair Trade Fair website. See if you can substitute a product you use in your life with a fair trade equivalent.
The busiest times for food banks is around the holidays. Before you take a hands-on shopping trip to donate, try calling first and asking about high need items. When we did a justice playgroup for our local food pantry this summer, they really needed personal hygiene items. We were able to gather and meet their greatest need at that time. Here is a list of high-quality items that can benefit most food pantries.
Access to health care is an issue that really affects everyone. Even when families have insurance they may lack funds for co-pays, or still be in need of secondary services like vision, dental, and specialists. Beyond debates, because there is probably no country that has found the one-hundred percent correct answer to access, how can we understand and support access to health care in our communities and globally. Globally the situation is even more desperate as access to the simplest care is out of reach for many.
Health Care Discussion Starters:
Help your family go deeper:
The cost of health care is staggering… who can you help with this burden? Do you know families you can support?
Discuss specific illnesses with children. Help them understand what might go into care, what special equipment you might need, how often you might have to visit the doctor.
Talk about parts of world where you might have to walk miles and miles to get to a health clinic. If you are bringing a sick family member what challenges might that bring?
Talk about needing glasses, but having no way to acquire them.
In disasters how important is health care? What things change in moments of crisis?
What might be different about doctors offices around the world?
The disease of malaria can be prevented by a simple bed net, yet many do not have access to that. What other sicknesses might be prevented by something simple (clean water, sanitation, clinics.)
Do you have a free health clinic in your area? Is there anyway you can support their efforts?
How can your family take care of its own health?
How do you think health care where you live compares to other places around the world?
How can you support efforts to help people have access to health care?
Do you think this might be an important cause for communities to think about?
If you know someone going through an illness or has a chronic illness how could you support their family? How could you support a classmate?
Talk about root causes of heath care disparities: race, local resources, location in the world, poverty, immigrant or refugee, women in parts of the world.
A list of donations commonly needed by Ronald McDonald Houses. (contact your local house to check for specific needs.)
WIC: Early Entry into Dental Care provides a simple yet powerful solution to the problem of preventing dental disease in low income children. Contact your local WIC office to see how you can be involved.
#TalkJustice Summer Serve Play Groups! Come over to our Facebook Event Page to learn more. Invite friends! We will be exploring topics and making a difference in community, using a series of books donated to us from CitizenKid. Hosted by About Proximity (that’s me) and my Mom, a public school family advocate for two decades.
#TalkJustice: Clean Water Last week we talked Hunger. Clean water is another great justice topic to start with for kids. They understand thirst. Beyond, thirst we can teach them that unclean water makes people sick. We can talk about water scarcity and how that affects everyone on the planet.
Whenever we talk to our kids about justice issues we can be positive, because there are so many ways we can help! Even though the topics can be heavy, we can make a difference, and that’s something to be excited about. Help your family go deeper:
Do we use more than our share of water?
Imagine using unclean water for laundry, showers, drinking, cleaning dishes.
What dangers might occur trying to transport clean water to your home? Might it make you vulnerable? Would you have time to attend school?
Without water could anything survive?
More and more people face water scarcity. How could that affect everyone on the planet?
If you had to walk thirty minutes to get clean water, how would you use water differently?
Introducing #TalkJustice Summer Serve Play Groups! Come over to our Facebook Event Page to learn more. We will be exploring topics and making a difference in community, using a series of books donated to us from CitizenKid. Hosted by About Proximity (that’s me) and my Mom, a public school family advocate for two decades.
I LOVE to hear from you! Did you try any hunger or clean water activities? What conversations came up in your family?
Hunger is something most kids will understand. Everyone can relate the feeling of a hungry tummy from time to time. We can broaden our kids understanding of true hunger by helping them learn about the people around the world that feel those tummy rumbles and don’t have access to a snack or meal like most of us do.
Help your family go deeper:
If you didn’t have dinner would it be hard to sleep that night?
If you didn’t have breakfast would you have trouble concentrating in school?
How would you feel if you didn’t have a lunch to bring to school?
If you had a week where there wasn’t much food at home, would you begin to feel worried about having enough?
Talk about root causes of hunger:
famine and floods
rising food costs
Help older children understand common misconceptions about hunger:
WIC in the United States helps with supplementing woman, infants and children, school lunch programs, school breakfast programs, and summer lunch programs.
Whenever we talk to our kids about justice issues we can be positive, because there are so many ways we can help! Even though the topics can be heavy, we can make a difference, and that’s something to be excited about!