My kids have lived a pretty sheltered and blessed life in our little town of Jacksonville, Florida. Sheltered in that Jax is nothing like our former city of Washington DC. In DC, we could walk down a street of million dollar plus homes and bump into a homeless person (or several) sitting at the corner having a political debate with his shadow, then turn the corner and find rows of boarded up homes.
We talk often to the kids about how many people in Jacksonville and around the world live without. How many kids don’t have toys, or beds to sleep on. Rooms. Roofs. Shoes. Food. As the kids got older, we started teaching them to give back in and outside of our own community. To do our part, we collect toys we don’t want, clothes that don’t fit, shoes that are still good, and we donate them. We usually do this before someone’s birthday and before Christmas. We do this often enough to always have dedicated bags or piles of stuff we are giving away. When it comes time to complete the pile or bag, I get the kids to personally decide what they will donate. I think it makes the lesson that much more important. Give generously and freely. When we have a good pile, I call Goodwill or the Salvation army truck and we say good-bye to our stuff. Our church and the children’s school often does charities for Haiti so we donate there.
When we found out we were going to spend time in Mexico our next bags were for ”the little kids in Mexico.” I knew that we would see homeless children on the street and I wanted us to personally give to the families we were impacting while here. We talked about the children I saw on my last trip and how these children really have nothing. Live on the sidewalk. For our special trip, the kids decided to give some of their special toys away. The Webkinz they’ve collected, ponies that are still fun but okay to give because “I have enough.” The hot wheels that were in Youngest’s pocket for the last few days. It wasn’t just the leftover toys anymore, it became more personal.
The week before we left, we divided up the pile of clothes, blankets, shoes, and toys we collected and put them in the reuseable bags I have collected along the way. To each bag we added snacks – granola bars, juice boxes, crackers. Just a little something. The plan was to hand them out while we did our sight-seeing. In our luggage went seven of our care bags which turned out to be an extra piece of luggage. We set out our last morning in Mexico City, everyone with at least a bag in hand to give out. Each time we found a family we offered them “una bolsa con ropa, bocadillos, y juguetes.” The families were grateful. Most of them rummaging through the bag right in front of us. We watched from a distance as the kids played with their new toys and I watched with such pride as my children willingly gave the toys they once cherished.
Giving back in Mexico while in Mexico was a great moment for me. I had tears in my eyes as I thought about being here with the kids and doing this with them. It felt so good to use our special trip that we were so blessed to take to do something for other families. Although our bags may have done only a little for these families that need so much, I know that it had a big impact on making this trip even more special for our family.