“Charity starts at home”. This is one (of many) lessons my dad taught me when I was young. To be honest, as a kid, I had absolutely no idea what that meant. No idea! Now, you have to understand that in blue collar america, where I grew up, there is no such thing as a “charity event”. At least not in my neighborhood. You never heard of your neighbors or extended family going to an event where they paid a hundred dollars per plate, raised a paddle, and gave hundreds to different nonprofit organizations. However noble this practice is, it was only something I saw on TV.
A quick side note – I have a serious paddle addiction. When I was younger, I thought of a “paddle” as something one rowed a boat with. Now, as I am older, I have a more sophisticated understanding of the word. I love, love, LOVE to raise the paddle. It’s a problem. I have my usual intervention laying the ground rules before each charity event, conducted and attended by only my husband. All the while, I’m trying to calculate to what extent I will break these rules. We all have our issues.
Now that the truth is out in the open, back to my dad. After my mom went back to work as a teacher, most weeks my dad would do the grocery shopping. He always shopped at Sam’s Club (a.k.a Costco) because we are Italian and we like to eat… a lot. During most trips he would buy two big packages of peanut butter crackers. My mom would take these snacks to her school and share them with her students. She would bring other snacks as well, but for some reason, completely unknown to me, these peanut butter crackers fixed themselves into my memory. So, she would take these items to work with her at the inner city junior high school because most mornings her students came to school hungry. Yes, you read that correctly, hungry. They hadn’t had breakfast and most often they hadn’t had dinner the night before.
Hungry. It is mind boggling to think back on all of the kids who ate because of my dad’s trips to Sam’s Club. Peanut butter crackers. Go figure. If you add up all of the $20 packages of peanut butter crackers, over the past 15 years, that adds up to more than $3600 in peanut butter crackers. They didn’t raise a paddle, or pay for a plate, or write a big check or even tell anyone they were doing it – it was just part of their everyday practice as human beings. It was just the way our home functioned.
So what did my dad mean when he said “Charity starts at home”? Thinking over my childhood years, there were several small acts of kindness I can remember but those peanut butter crackers were significant because it illustrates how learning kindness begins with how we treat each other in our own families and communities, how we selflessly give to each other, and how we respect one another. The action of charity starting at home helps reveal to our children that through “peanut butter crackers” giving can be easy and impactful. We need to make this idea of practical charity a practice in our homes, finding small ways that fit our lifestyle and means to help others in our community in ways that make a big impact. There is no way to know how many children’s bellies were full because of those peanut butter crackers but I say even if one kid didn’t feel hungry anymore those peanut butter crackers made a big difference. Find your peanut butter crackers and make an impact!