By Jonathan Wilterdink*
For many people, November starts a season of looking for ways to give back to their community. As disciples of Jesus Christ, we recognize the importance of giving both of ourselves and our time and talent.
In preparation for #GivingTuesday, I was given the opportunity at Hope Ridge UMC (Western Reserve District), where my wife the Rev. Beth Wilterdink serves, to work with the congregation and the preschool to teach young children how to live generously.
Working with Hope Ridge Preschool Director Samantha Meunier, the 130 children of the preschool spent two months seeing “Generosity in Action” through activities in the classroom as well as at home with their families. Through the month of October, the preschoolers were asked to help make the “Generosity tree” bloom, by doing acts of kindness for others.
- The students were excited to participate in activities outside their normal routine while being kind to others.
- Teachers helped students bake muffins in the church kitchen and deliver them to another class for snack time.
- Students made hearts during their craft time that were delivered to the Tuesday morning women’s Bible study.
- The women of the Bible study took time to share with the children how donations to the church help support local and international ministries.
- During story time, teachers read The Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister to reinforce the joy of giving through the story of a beautiful fish who learns to make friends by sharing his most prized possession.
- Additionally, the families of the preschool were asked to bring in pop tabs from their homes to be donated to Ronald McDonald House. Over the course of two months, the preschool families brought in over 25 lbs. of pop tabs!
As the “Generosity tree” bloomed fully and the preschool started the month of November, the preschoolers were asked to generously give from their own collection of toys and books. Partnering with the Lake County YMCA central branch in Painesville, Ohio, the children of Hope Ridge Preschool were encouraged to bring in a gently-used toy or book to donate to the child care and treehouse programs of the YMCA. As parents brought bags in, some children approached Mrs. Meunier at drop-off, toy in hand, to explain that they were done playing with their toy and were ready for another child to enjoy playing with it as much as they did.
To culminate the season of generosity, the preschoolers were brought into the church Worship and Family Life Center to learn about the families who stay at the Ronald McDonald House in Cleveland. Using Thrivent Action Team funds provided by my company, the children assembled 70 “grab-and-go” breakfast bags for families staying at The Ronald McDonald House who needed food before early morning procedures and left before the house kitchen opened.
What an amazing two months making these children aware of what it means to live generously. A huge thank you to the teachers of Hope Ridge Preschool and their leadership in the classrooms—imagine the seeds of generosity and kindness that you planted for these 3-, 4- and 5-year-old children!
*Jonathan Wilterdink is a financial associate with Thrivent Financial.