“Gratitude is not only the greatest of the virtues, but the parent of all of the others” (Cicero). Gratitude, not bound by November’s 30 days, merits permanent residence in our hearts, on our minds and at our tables.
Recent brain research demonstrates connections between gratitude and giving. Parents can model grateful temperaments and openly discuss the benefits of giving to those in need. In Tampa Bay, Metropolitan Ministries offers families opportunities for helping the at-risk and homeless. Children age 8 and older can volunteer, chaperoned by a parent or legal guardian.
Brensley Thompson-Hurst, associate director of marketing and communications for Metropolitan Ministries, projects that 37,000 families will need assistance this holiday season. Metropolitan Ministries’ 17 Holiday Tents throughout Hillsborough, Pasco and Pinellas counties, where kids can sort donations, are central to their initiatives.
Thompson-Hurst knows firsthand how giving, beyond providing necessities, imbues hope. “Growing up, my family needed help,” she says. “We lived in a shelter. Giving back is part of my personal journey and every bit counts. When we instill kids with an appreciation for giving back, they’ll pass it on to friends and family.”
Volunteerism, by creating community connections, shows kids they can affect change and their voices have power. Lainie Rowell, author of “Evolving with Gratitude,” writes that adults can help kids tap “into the power of gratitude both as an emotion and a disposition.” Holiday Tents let kids positively impact vulnerable populations’ most pressing need: food. There’s demand for frozen turkeys, ham, canned cranberry sauce and boxed stuffing. Anchored in gratitude, kids experience the value their time and donations provide the community. Shifts fill quickly, so consult Metropolitan Ministries’ volunteering page.
Positive psychology researchers have found that cultivating gratitude in kids yields significant benefits, including higher grades and more solid social relationships. Kelly and Jesse Burchill, parents to Ella (11) and Lola (13), are raising their daughters with grateful dispositions.
“I was raised that way. My dad took food to the homeless,” Kelly recalls. Jesse, aware of the example he’s setting, shares, “We have a responsibility to lift others up.” Initiating conversations about one’s blessings, others’ needs and how blending gratefulness and giving benefits everyone involved is parents’ responsibility. Volunteering at Metropolitan Ministries has proven a Burchill family favorite.
Kelly questions, “If we don’t engage kids in volunteerism, how will they grow in gratefulness and initiative for carrying acts of service into adulthood?” Already, the girls request giving leftovers from holidays and birthday parties to the homeless. After Lola’s 13th birthday in a downtown hotel, the girls walked around sharing food with homeless residents. “I tell my friends giving is fun and makes me appreciate how lucky we are,” Lola explains. Ella adds: “When Metropolitan Ministries shares how many people they can feed because of our work, I’m happy knowing we helped.”
Kelly reflects: “What if you’re the one person that, this one day, week, or even year gives someone hope?” Standing in the position of need—of hopelessness—can happen to anyone…to anyone’s child.
Due to rising costs in housing and gas, numbers of at-risk and homeless families in our area have increased. Metropolitan Ministries needs your family’s help in giving others food and hope. Fulfilling holiday initiatives requires Metropolitan Ministries gather 1 million pounds of food and thousands of people. By giving our children occasions for giving to others, we create spaces for gratitude and unleash the power of hope.
Metropolitan Ministries offers year-round opportunities for kids to grow in gratefulness and giving. To learn more visit metromin.org
Share photos of your family’s gratefulness for giving using #InspireHope
Photos provided by Metropolitan Ministries | Originally published in December 2022 of Tampa Bay Parenting Magazine.