We all say we want to volunteer and give back to the communities we belong to, but most of us rarely get around to actually doing that. Each month I fully intend to do something totally selfless and think of a couple ideas, but rarely do any of them pan out. This is why I have been impressed by the weekly dose of inspiration the Good Newsletter brings my way. Over the last couple of months, we’ve shared with you our discovery of Local Love and the amazing work they’re doing to highlight easy ways for us to give back in our Toronto community. Today, I thought I’d share about how I’m giving up on my lofty community service goals and getting the kids involved in showing empathy to our homeless community in downtown Toronto.
Disclosure: I have partnered with YMC and Local Love and have received compensation for this post. All opinions, as always, are TOTTALY my own.
So truth be told, my goal this month was to enroll our family in the Yonge Street Mission’s Family to Family mentoring program. This initiative is simply amazing. Yonge Street Mission works with families in crisis, who have experienced crisis, or are “at risk” and live with poverty. They seek other families who can turn compassion into action by volunteering to mentor a family who could use the support. The best part is that this is something your family can do together and the focus is on the downtown core – two things that are crucial factors for me when I look at volunteering initiatives. However, I soon realized that the nearly year long, one-full-day-a-month time commitment involved would be difficult for us once school started and I didn’t want to let anyone down. So Chris made me see the reality. As he often does!
We then started chatting and decided that one of the best ways to teach our kids about giving back and making a change would be for them to use their own money to do some good. As many of you are aware, our blog brings in some money and because the kids are involved in some projects (mainly the video ones), we are teaching them the value of work by giving them some money (not much mind you!) for every project they work on. We filmed one over the weekend and asked them if they would like to donate their money to buy some food to feed the homeless. As you can imagine, they weren’t too pleased about it initially, but Little Monkey soon agreed. She then convinced Baby Boy of the merits involved. Mind you, even when we handed the last item out he kept questioning us as to why he couldn’t have some of the food himself!
Chris wanted to buy something healthy (always the sound of reason between us!) but I opted for treats because I knew that giving things they coveted wouldn’t come naturally for our kids. My initial idea was to treat some of the homeless folks down by us on Yonge Street to an ice cream from the ice cream truck but then I noticed that Tim Hortons was also offering a special initiative in celebration of 50 years of the Special Olympics. Last weekend, they offered a limited-edition Special Olympics doughnut, designed by Special Olympics Alberta athlete Savannah Lussier. All proceeds were going to Special Olympics programs across the country. Just like when playing Castles (the board game) and scoring travel miles, I am all about doubling up. So they decided to purchase these special donuts and then hand them out to the homeless in the Yonge-Dundas corridor.
At first I thought it would be fairly easy. We have homeless folks on our street that we have come to know over the years. However, on this day our regulars were not there. Knowing some of the struggles they have experienced, my only hope is that they found a place that is good to them that day. We decided to walk a bit further away from our street and meet new people and this was another learning experience for the kids. They asked many questions on how to know if someone was homeless and why some would say no to the treat. A friend of mine was a bit weary of us doing this, on the off chance that someone might have an outburst but I’m here to report that nothing of the sort happened.
Sure, some were only interested in cash (something I never hand out to those on the streets, on principle) and there were some who might have been advised to steer clear of sugar but mostly we received smiles of gratitude, and it was actually lovely chatting with strangers who are often dismissed during everyday wanderings around the downtown core.
The kids were definitely out of their comfort zone, as was I (truth be told), but it was a great learning experience for us all. Little Monkey has already asked if we could do this more often. Baby Boy on the flip side is curious to know when he can have another doughnut!
Don’t worry guys, I ensured I surprised the kids with a special treat at the end of the day! If you’re still looking for a weekly dose of inspiration and to learn about great initiatives in Toronto that you can support, sign up for the free Good News Letter!