The Dinner Table: Giving is Inspiring

Giving Tuesday

Tuesday, December 3rd, 2013,  is Giving Tuesday.  After years of hearing about Black Friday and Cyber Monday, some folks created a day for giving back rather than consuming – and thus Giving Tuesday – the first Tuesday after Thanksgiving.  The Family Dinner Project got inspired by this opportunity and thought – what better place to talk together about giving back than at the dinner table? What better way to raise the next generation of philanthropists great and small?  So we went and built a whole new part of our website dedicated to helping families talk about and inspire giving together.  My favorite is this Decision Tree that Grace Taylor created. But the tips for inspiring giving in children is great, as are the conversation starters.
Here is how our giving conversations have started, but we need your help to see them through.

We drove to North Carolina’s Outer Banks for Thanksgiving with my in-laws.  That means fifteen hours in the car and there is only so much too-early Christmas music I can take.  So we downloaded a few books on tape – some for the whole family like Misty of Chincoteague and Sarah Plain and Tall, and one for my wife and I after the kids fell asleep – Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder, which tells the story of Dr. Paul Farmer’s work trying to cure Tuberculosis in Haiti.  We were so inspired by his and his team’s incredible efforts, but also by the story of a construction contractor from Boston, Tom White, who wanted to do something to help Haiti so gave Dr. Paul his first big donation and subsequently gave away every penny of his millions of dollars to support the work.

Giving is inspiring – it is powerful way to teach others – we were inspired.  We had been talking as a family for a few weeks about what we wanted to do for Giving Tuesday.  As a family we volunteer and raise money for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and so that seemed like the obvious choice.  But there was something about this story of one dedicated soul going to do something helpful and being supported by someone else that seemed like a powerful lead to follow.

We were reminded of our niece Grace who has been traveling to Haiti for the last 6 years to work in orphanages and now at a small farming school.  Because Grace was joining us for Thanksgiving, we asked her to tell us stories about what she does in Haiti.  Her stories moved us.  We talked about it as a family and decided that we would help Grace on her next trip – she is taking a group of college students to volunteer at the farm school.   We are all going to collect the money in our charity jars when we get home.  But truthfully we are hoping that people reading this may share with us some ways that we can get our kids to participate in making money or things to support Grace’s trip.  What have you done in your families?  What can we do as a family to make some money for the trip?

The world surrounds us with messages about all the things we can buy this time of year.  I want to surround my children with ideas for how they can give and things they can do for others.  I’ve had this impulse in the past, but this year I want to make good on it.  But we need your help…ideas anyone? Happy Giving Tuesday!


John SarroufJohn Sarrouf

John is a father of two – Elijah (8) & Esme (5) – and the director of The Family Dinner Project, a grassroots movement of food, fun and conversation about things that matter based in Watertown, MA.  John is a professional mediator and dialogue facilitator who spends much of his time leading conversations with parents and families about the opportunities and challenges of family dinners.

[Photo credit: (cc) Chris Radcliff]

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