Have I ever mentioned how much I love being a blogger? It has given me an emotional and intellectual outlet, it has done wonders for my confidence and sense of purpose, and it has given me some incredible opportunities to try new products and meet new people.
One of the best things about being a blogger is that I've had the opportunity to help my local community in ways I would never be able to do on my own. We're not the richest of families, but we give what we can, and what we can't give financially I try to make up for by giving my time -- I volunteer at school, at local family shelters, and by spreading awareness for causes near and dear to my heart through my blog. But this year, through the course of my blogging, I've been able to team up with several amazing companies who have provided the resources to help me and my family spread some holiday cheer among families need it the most.
Case in point: at the beginning of the month, I was given $100 by the Yahoo! Motherboard to perform some Random Acts of Kindness this holiday season. The idea was to use the money to perform small acts of kindness, in the hopes that it would inspire the recipients to "pay it forward", do the same to others and create a "ripple of kindness". I myself was so inspired by the thought that I started even before I received the money -- I made dinner for a mom of one of my kids' classmates who has an inoperable brain tumor. Then, when the $100 arrived, we decided to step out of our normal "giving comfort zone" and use it to perform some acts of kindness we wouldn't normally do.
* When a man rang our doorbell selling magazine subscriptions, I wrote out a check for a two-year subscription for a kids' magazine -- then donated the subscription to the Boys and Girls Club of America. Normally I would have declined with a "Sorry, we don't need any more magazines", but thanks to Yahoo! I was able to give something to a worthy organization, and help the man reach his sales quota.
* When a mother approached us at a fast food restaurant asking if we had any change, we gave her some. Growing up in the Philippines has rendered me immune to the pleas of panhandlers -- I'm always suspicious that the money goes to a syndicate (like in Slumdog Millionaire) so instead of money I prefer to give the beggar kids candies or food -- but this time I threw caution to the winds and gave cash. Her grateful smile made my day.
* We bought grocery gift cards, stood out in front of the store and handed them out at random. Now that's something you don't get to do every day! It was fun to see the changing expressions on their faces, from puzzlement to suspicion to surprise to delight. The Pea especially loved dropping a dollar into the Salvation Army bucket -- then handing a gift card to the woman ringing the bell.
Holiday cheer doesn't have to come in the form of dollars and cents. Thanks to Cepia LLC, the makers of Zhu Zhu Pets, I've been able to distribute hundreds of Zhu Zhu Pet hamsters to children in need. Earlier this month I co-hosted a holiday party at our local family shelter, where we gave a Zhu Zhu Pet to each child who attended. My kids helped distribute the toys and helped the children at the shelter make little cardboard homes for their new pets. It was certainly an eye-opener for my kids, who have so much, to see other kids who don't have many toys, much less a home! The party was such a hit that we reserved a second bunch of Zhu Zhu Pets for another family shelter, where we'll hand them out in January.
We donated the remaining Zhu Zhu Pets to our local Ronald McDonald House. The kids are familiar with the mission and purpose of Ronald McDonald Houses after we toured a Ronald McDonald House in Chicago last June, so they were more than happy to don their Santa hats and drop off a couple of boxes for kids who are undergoing serious medical treatments over the holidays.
I was also delighted to be asked by Cahootie, a company whose product I've been reviewing, whether I knew of any organizations who would like to receive a donation of their toys. Would I ??? This is one time when I don't mind quoting Sarah Palin's You Betcha. Once more we headed for the family shelter, this time with a boxful of Cahooties for their Christmas Closet. It's full of new toys donated by generous individuals and companies, and each family in the shelter gets to choose a toy from the Closet so their kids can have a great present to open on Christmas Day. The kids wasted no time stacking up the Cahooties in a pyramid amidst all the other toys. I'm sure lots of children at the shelter will have a great time playing with them.
Could these companies have donated the toys and money without me? Of course. Which is why I'm so grateful to them for including me in the loop. Being able to witness the happiness all these toys and money were spreading -- and being able to teach my kids a thing or two about giving -- has been priceless, and no better proof that it's more blessed to give than to receive. And it all happened because I blog.
Disclosure: I did not receive any financial compensation for my participation in these holiday giving drives, or for writing this post. All samples were sent to me for the express purpose of donating to various persons and organizations in need.