Enjoy Life Foster Care Giving Giving Back Kindness

Think Outside of the (Christmas Gift) Box – #ActsOfKindness

Think Outside of the (Christmas Gift) Box – #ActsOfKindness

December and the Christmas season is a time of much generosity. Let’s keep it going throughout the year. Photo by Carol

A big thank you to Liz at ChiefMomOfficer.org for her blog post titled I’m Sick of Christmas Materialism – Instead Let’s Make a Difference #ActsOfKindness. After reading that post, ForeignBornMD started this blog chain to encourage other bloggers and their respective readers to make a difference this Christmas season. Links to their articles, as well as blog posts by several others, appear at the bottom of this post and will be updated when other bloggers add to the chain.

I’m happy to join the blog chain and share some thoughts to encourage all of us to think outside of the box, specifically, outside of the Christmas gift box. Giving to help others is a beautiful thing that shouldn’t be limited to the month of December.

I have been the recipient of others’ generosity, and I confess I have also been the parent who spends too much on her children’s Christmas gifts. It’s easy to get carried away if you’re not deliberate!

Many people figure out there is more to life than getting more stuff. Below are some ideas for you to consider at Christmas-time and throughout the year.

The first few ideas are geared toward children in foster care. They are living in uncertain times, as their birth parents may or may not be successfully working toward reunification. The second set shares some acts of kindness to illustrate how unexpectedly, quickly, and affordably you can make an impression on a total stranger with little or no planning or cost.

Donate to Benefit a Child in Foster Care

Other than mentioning it on my About Me page, I haven’t yet written about any of my experiences as a foster parent. The years that my husband and I were licensed to provide care were some of the most rewarding years of my life:

  • partly because we were able to provide a safe and nurturing environment to kids in need
  • partly because the children we cared for were such a blessing in our lives
  • partly because of how the responsibility challenged me and grew me in ways I didn’t expect
  • partly because we witnessed first-hand the generosity of others and saw how people open their hearts to kids in need

If you’re not able or wanting to be a foster parent, there are still many things you can do for kids in foster care. You can take action any month of the year.

Donate for Annual Events Meant to Provide a Special Experience

Each December, donations to our licensing agency allowed them to host a Christmas party and it was usually held at a family fun center, the type venue where you might host a children’s birthday party. The kids are treated to an afternoon filled with inflatables, unlimited arcade games, and a lunch buffet. Age-appropriate Christmas gifts were provided for all the children.

Donate Handmade Blankets or Supplies

We didn’t know at the time, but the most memorable gift we ever brought home from those Christmas parties was a simple homemade blanket that would become known as Blue.

Each year, there was a folding table piled with blankets made by the loving hands of women in local churches. There were crocheted afghans, beautiful quilts, quilts with kid friendly fabrics, fleece blankets with tied edges, and relatively plain but snuggly blankets. Each child in foster care could pick one blanket to have as their own.

Our five-year old boy, who came to us with nothing but the clothes on his body and a stuffed bunny from the social worker, got to the blanket table with much of the selection already gone. He picked a simple blue blanket with a simple stitched edge. It came rolled with a small piece of paper printed with a poem that flipped this simple piece of fabric to a beloved blanket that he still uses and sleeps with six years later.

My heart was thinking of you,
my hands knew what to do.
This blanket grew out of the love
I want to share with you.
I hope it will keep you warm
and befriend you late at night.
I hope you’ll come to love it
and be comforted by its sight.
Let this blanket wrap you in friendship
and cover you in love,
because this blanket was thinking of you long before it was even done.
A poem for Project Linus by Suzanne Gonzalez

Because of that last line, we learned about Project Linus, a non-profit organization with chapters throughout the U.S. that accept hand-made blankets for kids in need. If you’re not a blanket-maker, they also accept donations of blanket-making supplies.

Donate to Fund Extracurricular Activities for Children in Foster Care

Our licensing agency received grant money from Dr. Phil, the psychologist and television personality, to fund extracurricular activities for kids in foster care.

You might not have the wealth of Dr. Phil but check with your local agencies to see if you can contribute any amount so kids in foster care can experience some level of “normal”. Think swim lessons, team sports, music lessons, dance, art classes, robotics club, etc.

Kids in foster care are removed from their birth family for various reasons but ultimately it’s because the state/county believed it necessary, at least temporarily, for the child’s safety, protection, and well-being.

Donating to fund extracurricular and enrichment activities can provide these kids with exercise, stress relief, friendships, and a chance to learn new skills, as well as help identify what they’re good at and which type activities they enjoy (or not).

We had to submit a request identifying the activity, the provider, and the anticipated benefits to the child.

Donate Clothing in Teen Sizes to Your Local Foster Agencies

Each year when we renewed our foster care license, we could indicate the range of ages we were willing to care for. We always wrote “5 years old or younger.”

The main reason was that we had teenagers of our own and wanted to preserve the birth order for them. Also, we simply felt more comfortable helping a preschooler in their time of need.

However, like I said above, kids in foster care are removed from their birth family for various reasons but ultimately it’s because the state/county believed it necessary, at least temporarily, for the child’s safety, protection, and well-being. That reasoning applies to teens as well as grade-schoolers, preschoolers, and infants.

Imagine being removed from your world as a child or teen and then being placed into a new home and school setting without your familiar clothing and belongings. Our agency had a clothing closet that offered donated clothing (new and gently used) but it was stocked with far more young kids’ clothing than teen sizes.

Share Your Time with a Foster Family

Share your time to provide respite care to a foster family. Respite care provides a short-term break for the foster parents, likely with an overnight stay. Depending on where you live, there are requirements regarding respite care occurring in their home or at yours.

The demands of foster care can be challenging, even overwhelming, and the child(ren) and the family may occasionally need a break from each other. Or the family may need to travel out of state and the judge won’t approve the travel for the foster child.

You can also offer to babysit. The foster parents may want to go Christmas shopping or need to go to a medical appointment of their own, without kids in tow. You’ll need to comply with your local foster care regulations with respect to age limits and location, but an agency or a foster family should be able to guide you.

Not sure how to reach foster care agencies are in your area? Do an internet search of your state and city (and/or county) name along with the phrase “foster care agencies.” You should find agency names and phone numbers listed in the results.

Be a Blessing with Your Actions

You don’t have to spend a lot of money to spread kindness. You may not spend any money at all, yet your actions might be remembered for years.

Here are two examples where I was on the receiving end and I still appreciate the kindness shown to me, years later. The third is something I did, and I share it not to brag but to point out if we allow ourselves to ponder an opportunity, giving freely can become a no-brainer “yes!”

I hope you’ll be inspired toward your own #ActsOfKindness.

Go Out of Your Way to Help Others

While visiting the busy tourist town of Branson, Missouri, my husband or I rolled down a car window to ask a pedestrian for directions. He was an elderly man.

He said something like, “turn left at the next light, then take the next right and keep going straight until you cross over the highway.”

We made a left turn and a right turn, then waited at a red light for the traffic signal to turn green.

While we sat there at that red light, that same elderly man came running up to our car. Red-faced and out of breath, he said, “I meant “turn left at the next light, go straight for three blocks, then turn right and go straight until you cross over the highway.”

He could have let us figure it out on our own, but he wanted to help a stranger and correct his original misinformation, possibly stressing his own health and well-being while doing so. His example was that we should go out of our way to help others and we can take the time to do it right. 

Give Simply (without hesitation)

While living in the south, we experienced some rainfall of Biblical proportion. OK, it wasn’t that much, but I’m saying we learned that it can rain long and hard in the southern U.S.  One time, I was shopping at Walmart when I could hear the intense rain hitting the roof. It was raining torrentially. TORRENTIALLY.

After paying for my cart full of groceries, I headed toward the door and saw how hard it was raining. I found a seat on a bench in the entryway, sat down and snuggled my infant, and decided to wait for the rain to stop. I wasn’t in any hurry.

An incoming shopper, a total stranger, walked into the store and saw me sitting there with my baby. She immediately offered me her umbrella so I could get to my car.

How thoughtful was that? There was no hesitation in her offer. I declined so she wouldn’t have to buy a new umbrella but have always remembered her kind gesture and how quick she was to offer it.

That woman’s example was that when you perceive someone is in need, offer to help without hesitation. Be willing to give something up that you yourself might also need later.

Give Simply (even if with hesitation)

Long story short and I’ll spare you the back-and-forth conversation, but I once gave the shoes off my feet to a woman downtown who outright asked me for them. She asked for my favorite pair of black loafers that were finally worn in and comfortable. I wore them whenever I wore pants to work.

Initially, I didn’t want to give her my shoes, but I did and I’m so glad I did. I wish I could say I acted as quickly as the woman with the umbrella, but I didn’t.

I had just returned to my parked car after coming out of a foster care hearing where the birth parent didn’t show up. A total stranger, standing on the street in her socks, was heading into the courthouse for a court hearing of her own.

I obliged her because at least she was showing up to court to address her legal situation. I obliged her because I’ve been asked for cash from panhandlers and I’ve often thought I’d rather give something practical instead of cash that might be used for drugs or alcohol.

I drove home stocking-footed to put on my older pair of black loafers. Owning more than one pair of shoes is something that can easily be taken for granted. Do you own more than one pair of shoes? How many coats and jackets have you accumulated over the years?

How much else do I own that I could easily give away so it can be a blessing to someone who needs it more?! A lot!

When you know someone is in need, choose to put their needs before your desire to keep it just because you like it so much. If you really need it, you can replace it later, and the opportunity to help someone at a critical moment won’t be lost. 

There you have it, some ideas for being intentional with your giving in order to benefit kids in foster care and some examples of spontaneous acts of kindness that you can’t plan for. Either way, if you set your mind and heart toward always being aware of others’ needs and looking for opportunities to help, you will find them.

I want to hear from you! In the comments below, share a time you gave or received an act of kindness!

I also hope you’ll read the other bloggers’ posts on #ActsOfKindness. Here are the links:

Blog Chain


  1. Liz@ChiefMomOfficer

    Im so glad you joined in the chain, and that you shared your experience as a foster parent! Wonderful suggestions you have here to help those kids who need foster care. This reminded me of something I saw on Facebook some time ago, about a man who started an organization that provides backpacks to kids entering care. The founder is a former foster child who had all his belongings tossed into a trash bag. https://blueribbonproject.org/our-programs/backpacks-of-love/about-backpacks-of-love.html

    1. Liz, Thanks for visiting AND for starting the #ActsOfKindness chain. That backpack ministry sounds like another wonderful organization. I’ve observed how our son latches onto belongings that he can call his own. He remembers seeing some of his things tossed into a dumpster…I first learned that when I threw something (a disintegrating carved pumpkin) away in front of him. Kids in foster care have trauma we may not understand or know about. Thanks for your comment!

  2. I enjoyed hearing of your experience. What great ideas you have here! Will be incorporating some into my #actsofkindness this holiday season.

    1. Thank you, and thanks for visiting. I was moved by your post in the #ActsOfKindness chain. Like you said, I hope we can all make a difference, a step at a time. 🙂
      Take care!

  3. Mrs. Kiwi @ KiwiAndKeweenaw.com

    Thanks for sharing your story as a foster parent and for the many ideas in your post! I have a lot of fabric lying around with the intention of eventually getting around to using it, now I’m feeling inspired to actually make some blankets and donate them!

    1. Hi Mrs. Kiwi, That’s wonderful! It’s easy to build up a stash of fabric, isn’t it?! There are so many cute and pretty choices available. Maybe you’ll end up with a snowy day that’ll be perfect for a day of blanket-making and coffee. 🙂 Thanks for visiting my site. Carol

  4. Vicki@MakeSmarterDecisions

    I talked to a friend this weekend and she shared a story of a dad who called school and said he couldn’t care for his three kids. He had no money, no car and wanted school to call social services. It was heartbreaking. It isn’t our job to judge other parents – but to make sure we can do whatever we can to help kids (and help parents get the help they need.) Every little bit matters! And I loved this line – “choose to put their needs before your desire to keep it just because you like it so much” Great post!

    1. Vicki, thanks! That is a heartbreaking story indeed. I have to believe it’s encouraging he’s seeking help instead of being oblivious. I really hope he can get connected to some helpful resources (agencies, etc.) and that it all works out for him and his kids. We all prefer the happy endings, don’t we? Take care!

  5. I’m such a sap. I read that poem by Suzanne Gonzalez and my curmudgeonly old eyes began to tear up. Each year Mrs. Groovy and I donate two bicycles to a foundation that gives them to needed kids for Christmas. That’s fine, of course. But we can do better. Thanks for being part of this blog chain. Your post was very moving, and very inspiring.

    1. Mr. Groovy, thank you! I’m so honored that you visited my site. I’ve enjoyed so many of your posts, and have forwarded some of them on to others. Keep up with the excellent writing 🙂

      That’s so cool you and Mrs. Groovy donate bicycles. It’d be fun to hear the stories of how much those bikes are loved, wouldn’t it?! You may never hear the specific details but I’m positive you’ve made a difference in some kids’ lives. Thanks again for stopping by.

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