For the 2014 holidays, my boss, Bridgewater College President David Bushman, gave his senior staff two gifts each: a $50 grocery store gift certificate and a contribution in each of our names to the local food bank. Over the holiday break, our family traveled to Denver to visit friends. Instead of using the gift certificate for our own benefit, we gave it to my 17-year-old daughter, Lauren, and the children of our hosts, 17-year-old Katie and 15-year-old Jess, with the request that they select a non-profit to benefit from the gift certificate and that they do the shopping for that organization. Our hosts, Beth and Steve, matched the gift certificate, providing the girls with a total of $100 to spend.
The girls selected House of Hope-Family Tree, a homeless shelter dedicated to teen moms and their children. They got a list of needed items, and together made decisions about what they wanted to provide: a balance of supplies for the home and school. I had the pleasure of following the girls around the store as they made decisions regarding what they could afford for $100, what they felt the teen mom would need, and ultimately deciding to fund anything over their allotted budget from their own earnings.
Through this experience, we learned about a fabulous nonprofit doing important work for a population that typically struggles because there are limited resources for homeless teen moms. The girls learned how expensive things like diapers and laundry soap are—and how difficult it must be for the teens to afford children. The original gift ended up not only doubling in size monetarily, but at least 10-fold in its impact on us all. Instead of receiving a holiday gift that would have been consumed in no time at all, the girls and we parents received the gift of compassion, and helped homeless teen moms and their children.