A recent Wall Street Journal article described a new enrichment program for young New York City children called Little Givers, which helps inculcate social consciousness and introduce children to philanthropy. The article’s title, “Parents Outsource the Basics,” implies a correlation between Little Givers and the bevy of tutors and coaches whom parents pay to instill an array of skills traditionally taught at home, for example, how to ride a bicycle. However, the rapid growth of Little Givers evinces a real concern or hope among parents that children learn very early on how to give. The program’s growth also suggests that some parents may be unsure of their own ability or availability to instill social responsibility. To help parents with this daunting and essential task, Little Givers offers classes and a helpful online list of family opportunities through which children learn how to be charitable and engaged. I would like to humbly offer an additional way to address this challenge: start with socks.
As parent Jennifer Maulsby explains, “It can be hard for kids to understand what it means to go hungry, but they get what could happen if they didn’t have socks to keep their little toes warm.”* Maulsby runs the New York operation of SocksnUndies, which distributes new socks, undergarments and toiletries to homeless shelters. Their website (socksnundies.org) offers a step-by-step guide for families or classes to organize a sock collection and examine the how’s and why’s of giving. It explains, for example, that issues of warmth and comfort may initially resonate with children, but these conversations may also lead children to understand that we take action in order to help others uphold personal dignity.
Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel elucidated the confluence of action and spirituality when he inspired us to “pray with our feet.” When we try to teach our children to pray with their feet, one way we can start is with socks.
Photo courtesy of bark