The Islamic school my daughter attends prepares many meals for the poor during Ramadan, a special month of fasting, worship and charitable giving. Students are asked to participate by bringing a single ingredient for the day's meal. If, for example, potatoes are needed, each child in a designated class brings just one potato. If the school needs rice, each child in another class brings just one cup of rice. Whether the day's request is cucumbers, carrots, or onions, the emphasis is on bringing just one item. With more than a thousand students in the school, they are quickly able to assemble a vast amount of food for each meal.
I really like this school's method of collecting food. By requesting very simple ingredients, parents do not feel burdened, and the kids learn that giving charity does not have to be complicated or expensive. One item can make an impact, especially when combined with all the items donated by others.
Applying this concept, we have a jar for charity in my home that we all contribute to. No one is pressured to make donations, and I tell my kids that even one penny is welcome. They are always surprised when we finally count the money and find $10-$20 that we can use to ease another person's hardships.
If you have ever felt that charitable giving is too difficult on a tight budget, try cooperating with friends, family members or neighbors to donate one of "something" on a regular schedule.
Let's say, for example, that you are a mother who meets other mothers at the park each week. You all have babies and toddlers in diapers and know exactly how expensive it is to keep your kids diapered, with one package of diapers easily costing $20-$30, or even more. Donating a whole package of diapers to a needy mother might be difficult, but you really want to help a special friend. Applying the "just one" method, a group of five mothers could each donate one diaper per week until a complete package of 20 diapers is collected at the end of the month.
This can also work with other essential goods, like laundry soap (donate just one cup), regular soap (donate one bar), toilet paper (donate one roll), food (as described above), or anything else you can think of. For example, before the school year, school supplies are certainly a burden for many families. Can you donate one pencil? How about a notebook, a folder, an eraser, a pencil sharpener, or a ruler? A friend of mine started a project like this, asking for very little, and ended collecting so many school supplies that she was able to donate more than 65 fully-equipped backpacks to needy children in her city.
The "just one" method of collecting charitable items is so subtle that you don't even realize how much you are actually accumulating in a short period. As my friend found out, small donations can quickly turn into something huge and help many people. Involve your children in similar charitable giving projects, and they will see that helping others is something anyone can do.
Amel Abdullah is a freelance writer, editor and Arabic to English translator. She may be reached at email@example.com.
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