“To develop the importance of being kind in my children, I need simple ideas, ideas that can be completed quickly and still have meaning.”
“So, where do you work,” Big Brother asked as he grabbed a package of frozen carrots and put them on the moving conveyor belt at the check out stand.
“I am a teacher,” the woman in the wheelchair responded. “I teach middle school,” she added proudly.
Being five years old, Big Brother didn’t know what middle school was, but he was excited to talk to a teacher!
A few days before school started in the Fall of 2012, we waited at Target to check-out and a lady in a motorized wheelchair rolled up behind us. My five year old turned to her and asked if he could help unload the groceries from her cart.
While he and his younger brother unloaded her cart, we heard the teacher’s story of how she was hurt and her plans to teach from a wheelchair. Just as so many kids can do, the boys connected with a complete stranger in a way that they knew they made a difference to her.
That same week, a sweet friend of mine, Jill, abruptly lost her 21-month-old daughter, Penny, in an accident. We were stunned by her death and humbled to be witness to her mother’s strength and love in response to this loss. Strangely enough, we were buoyed by the responses from others around our friend. Strangers, friends, and family alike gathered around Jill and her family. They have sent messages of love, messages of their own faith, shared their own experiences of loss, and even made the way to help provide financial support to cover the costs of Penny’s funeral.
Just shy of 2 years old, and, yet, Penny created a wave of compassion and renewal for many, including us, to rethink and reevaluate elements of our lives. Although her time with her family was short, the impression and lesson she leaves behind will be long-lasting.
As I was thinking of Penny, my thoughts wandered to the contrast between her impact and the impact that many understand regarding the American penny. A simple measure of currency, a copper penny alone may seem insignificant to many: not thought worth enough to keep track of . . . lost in the recesses of our couches or in the dryer . . . and some even just thrown away without a second thought. Penny’s impact on others is extremely significant despite her age. Just as the value and measure of importance cannot be defined by how old a person is . . . a single penny can mean the difference between having the exact amount needed for a purchase or being short.
For the past year, I had struggled with finding ways to help my young children serve and learn kindness. And, through Penny’s lesson, I realized what I was doing wrong. I was being too complex, trying to create too grand an idea or service opportunity that would take too much time.
I needed to think in a simpler scope. A shorter unit of time.
A Penny of Time.
Inspired by son’s experience at Target and by Penny, Pennies of Time was started as a way to make serving others REASONABLE and DOABLE for children of all ages, for the entire family together. This journey included finding small projects that kids can do, working with nonprofits to better understand how families can help (even those places that don’t allow kids to help them), and finding likeminded people along the way.
Take 10-15 minutes each day to serve . . . a small moment of time, a “penny of time.”
That experiment resulted in greater empathy for others, a happier tone in the family, and an overall happier outlook on life for all of the family members.
What started as a family’s decision to be deliberate in teaching their children to serve is now a shared philosophy of life with other like-minded individuals and families. Thousands of families and people with a passion for kindness and serving are now connected due to the efforts of Pennies of Time.