When Disaster Strikes (and one way to involve your kids in helping)

I know I’m not alone when I say how sad I was to hear about the earthquake and tsunami in Japan.

I woke up that morning to a text from my friend Jen asking if we were going to evacuate. (I live in CA and she’s in NJ; at that point in the day, news stations were predicting waves to hit the California coast pretty hard.)

We didn’t have to evacuate, and everything ended up being fine, but we were definitely impacted by the news of such tragedy and devastation overseas.

And so were my kids.

While I was cautious and selective about what news to watch in front of them (they are only 10 and 12), I did want my son and daughter to know what others in the world were going through. As we enjoyed our daily routines–breakfast, school, baseball, track–there were people in Japan searching the rubble for loved ones.

There were people who had lost their homes,

their belongings,

their families.

At first, I wasn’t sure how to help. I knew I wanted to give, but I felt like we should do more. And there were so many organizations to choose from.

As I heard a story on the radio about a little girl who sold some of her own paintings and raised $300.00 to help relief efforts, I also realized I wanted to involve my kids in the giving.

Still, I wasn’t sure how.

That Sunday, as we sat in church, I got my answer.

A family from our church–a family with five kids, living in Japan–needed help. They were raising money to get a truck and fill it with supplies to bring to some hard hit areas. I knew instantly, as I saw this precious family’s photo come up on the screen, that this was how we could help.

And this was how we could involve our kids.

Sometimes, when we give to a cause in a general way–like giving online or writing a check and mailing it off–we risk losing sight of the human side of things. We might forget the pain, struggle, or efforts of that one person or that one family that our giving is helping.

And while giving to charitable organizations is (SO!) good and every bit helps, there’s something to be said about giving to specific people or specific families. Because when we do that, we not only put our money where it matters, we put our hearts there too.

That day, we came home from church and sat down with our kids. We got out paper and pens and stamps and scissors…


and we each made a personalized card for the family, to go with the check we were sending.

It was touching to see my kids carefully, meticulously, write each of the children’s names as they copied them off the flyer from church. And it was powerful to look at the photo of the family (the parents being about the same age as us) and know that, if I had gotten similar cards and help from another family, it would’ve meant a lot.

But what I loved most about the experience was that we all became personally involved in helping. We talked about this family and prayed for them… and for all the others that needed help.

So what’s my point in telling you all of this? I just wanted to share something that was reaffirmed for me: that when tragedy strikes around the world–or even in our own towns and cities–it can be tempting to shelter our kids and keep them as far away from it as possible. We want to protect their hearts and keep them from feeling burdened or scared.

But I think part of helping them to cope when they hear of tragedies (because they will hear, either at school or the store, or even at the park), is finding ways to involve them in helping others.

And if we do that, our kids will not only take part in the solution, they will also learn an important life lesson: to not sit back and watch as others suffer, but, rather, to reach out in love.

What do you think? How have you been affected by the recent natural disasters? Have you involved your kids in some way? I’d love to hear your thoughts or stories!


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