The Heart of the Home

You’ve probably heard the phrase, “The kitchen is the heart of a home.” If that is true, then my home is [currently] in critical condition. Our kitchen is being remodeled (yes, during the month of December), and never have I been more keenly aware of how many critical family functions take place in the kitchen.

We cannot cook.

We cannot use the dishwasher.

We cannot store anything in the cabinets, so EVERYTHING from the kitchen has been moved to other parts of the house.

We have no sink. And, for the few dishes we have been using, I have been using a basin and washing in the bathtub. 

And the dust. It’s everywhere. Even the things covered in plastic sheets are still coated with a fine layer of dust. You can see footprints on the wood floor. (It’s a bit like video of the lunar landing.) We cannot decorate for Christmas, because of the chaos. Most importantly, we cannot eat and connect as a family.

I don’t share this situation to garner any sympathy (although I do hope you laugh at the visual of me washing dishes in the bathtub).

I share because, standing in the midst of this temporary disruption in my everyday life, I was struck with the thought of the many children in our community who have never known the warmth and security of a family kitchen. They may have spent time in many kitchens, but not had one of their own. Due to poverty, neglect, abuse, homelessness or transience, they may not had the pleasure of decorating a family Christmas tree, or waiting in joyful anticipation for delicious smells and tastes of a Holiday to emerge from the “heart of a home.”  There may be a refrigerator where they are currently staying, but it probably isn’t packed full of bountiful food choices, and their artwork and photos probably do not adorn the front. So much of their life is temporary.

Imagine how that would feel. Instead of fond memories of Christmases past, approaching holidays bring anxiety, and dread, and an acute awareness of the instability of your current situation. What for many people is a joyous occasion is, instead, a time these children endure—to pretend like it doesn’t matter that Santa seems to visit the houses of classmates but not their own. To ignore the glittery commercials on TV, and to hope that some generous soul somewhere will choose his/her “angel” from a tree so there will be something to open on Christmas morning.

And what if this pattern was repeated, year after year, until that child had lost all hope? My struggle to endure my kitchen project seems very small in comparison to years spent wishing for a permanent family and a loving home. I’m an adult. I can see that the project will get completed, and this disruption is brief in the scheme of things. But a child in need may not see a “light at the end of the tunnel”. Now, you may be thinking that I am about to suggest you send money somewhere. While monetary donations are always needed and appreciated by churches and nonprofits serving children and youth, giving money is not what everyone is called to do.

Look around you.

View the circles in which you travel through a different lens—one that notices a family that may be struggling. They are out there.

Reach out.

Invite them over for a hot meal and a time of fellowship.

Offer to care for their children so the parents can revive their strength.

By opening your home, and offering encouragement and support, you may help keep that family intact. There are children and youth who will spend many more Christmases without a home and a family, but you can have an impact on their quality of life. Not everyone is called to foster and adopt, but everyone can do something. Prayerfully ask yourself, “What is my something?” If you need ideas, please let us know. We are here to guide you through the coming year as you commit to give of yourself and your talents to serve vulnerable children. Share the “heart of your home,” and while doing so, you will be sharing the love of Christ.

Blog post by Amber Fulton

Director of Operations, Embrace Texas

Before You Write That Check…

Here we are, almost to the end of the year. Decorating is well underway, and shopping and wrapping are daily activities. Our “To Do” lists grow longer and longer as we hurtle toward the holidays. And with the holidays comes the never-ending list of “opportunities” to give to those in need. After all, who can ignore the steady “ding-ding-ding” of the bell ringer in front of the mall? Or the thought of a child having nothing to open on Christmas morning? We all want to be charitable, right?

Before you write that check (or, for the digital experts, click that “donate” button), pause for a minute to consider the donation you are about to make. Are you being “charitable?” or “philanthropic?” You might be thinking those terms are interchangeable. To some, they are. A quick Google search will provide you with a plethora of opinions. Not to be outdone, I’m here to share mine.

Charity is, to me, the donation of money or stuff (water bottles, food, clothing, etc.) in response to a crisis or a heartfelt plea. We all feel compassion for the starving child on the poster, or the flea-bitten dog, or the photo of the long line of unfortunate souls shuffling along at the soup kitchen. We give to those causes because we “want to do our part,” or because “we have so many blessings,” or really, because stuffing a few dollars in a jar for “those people” makes us feel (at least temporarily) that we are doing something to ease their plight.

As a nation, we are very charitable. According to Charity Navigator (https://www.charitynavigator.org/index.cfm?bay=content.view&cpid=42) an estimated $390.05 billion was given to charitable organizations in 2016. Of that 15% went to education-based charities,12% to human services, and a whopping 32% ($122.94 billion) went to religious groups.

What, then, is philanthropy? Is it a grand gesture by a Hollywood star? A huge gift from a family foundation? A donation that gets a big splash on Facebook and in the media? Yes, it can be all of those things. But in my opinion, it is not the size of the gift that makes it philanthropic. To me, philanthropy is a strategic and sacrificial gift given with the expectation of facilitating long-term results or lasting change. Philanthropy is not a knee-jerk response. It is not a quick fix. It requires discernment, wisdom, and above all, faith. It is a down payment for sometimes yet-unseen results with the reasonable belief that the results can (and will!) be achieved.

I’m not suggesting you halt your charitable giving. Spare change in a jar or small bills dropped in a firefighter’s boot still have merit and benefit many worthy causes. But if you want to have an even bigger impact, consider how you can also become philanthropic. It might mean you narrow down your giving to a select few organizations or churches who demonstrate their ability to be good stewards. It might mean you commit to monthly giving, which provides a predictable funding stream. It might mean you look at giving not as something you do to make yourself feel good (an inward-focus), but instead as something you do to ensure the sustainability of organizations you see effecting real change (an outward-focus). Whatever it looks like for you, do it because you WANT to, and because you CAN, and because you are CALLED to fulfill this purpose.