Thanksgiving is over and our BatesMeron team is feeling its effects in full force. There’s a ringing in our ears from a long weekend of pleasantries exchanged and babies crying. If we even look at another side dish, we will surely explode. Our credit cards have been used more in the last 72 hours than they have in a month, and the weather outside is frightful, to say the least.
And still, we couldn’t be more grateful. During the hap-happiest season of all, a whopping 62% of people report somewhat to very high elevations in stress levels. A shortage on time and money is clearly to blame, but much of that stress also comes from failing to meet our own expectations of what the holidays should be.
Visions of sugarplums, joyous family gatherings and sleighs full of presents dance in our heads all season long—and when those expectations aren’t met, we’re left feeling like the last kid on the naughty list. Does that mean we give in to the voice in our head saying not good enough, big enough or rich enough? We think not. At BatesMeron, we’re taking a good, hard look at what we do have and learning to appreciate it—or better yet, giving it to somebody else.
Case in point: While we drone on about how many mounds of mashed potatoes we regrettably shoved into our mouths last week, millions of children across the country are experiencing an actual, real, worthy-of-our-time food crisis: 75% of school districts are reporting unpaid student meal debt. For the students whose parents are unable to pay for hot school lunches, the threats range from humiliation in the form of revoking their hot lunch and replacing it with a cold one to barring them from graduation.
The issue is out of the children’s hands. Their parents simply don’t have the money, and when it comes to outside help, they shouldn’t hold their breath. Needy child or not, schools are strict on their no-handouts-at-lunch policies. A kindhearted New Hampshire cafeteria employee allowed a teen to eat $8 worth of food to be repaid the next day, and she was fired for it. A Philadelphia businessman offered to pay off local schools’ lunch debt, but was told by the district they were not accepting donations.
22 million children rely on these free or reduced-price lunches at school, and 12 million of them live in food-insecure homes. That means, without school lunches, many of these children would be deprived of what very well could be their only consistent food source. If at any point this Thanksgiving you complained about being too full, you’re probably feeling pretty awful right about now.
Luckily, there’s no better time to do something about it.
When the BatesMeron team made it back in the office the Monday after Thanksgiving, we got to talking about being grateful. Between tales of our grueling drives on jam-packed highways and uncomfortable conversations with distant relatives, we realized how lucky each of us is to have such small stresses in comparison to those less fortunate. This growing sense of thankfulness sparked a new idea. This year, we’re doing away with the traditional office holiday party for something that makes us feel even better than a boozy cocktail: giving back where it’s needed most.
We want to spend our holiday helping the children for whom food does not come easy. So, how do you circumvent a system that makes it darn-near impossible to help hungry schoolchildren? Enter Blessings in a Backpack, a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing backpacks full of food to American schoolchildren to take home for the weekend.
The organization’s goal is to provide consistent meals for children who might otherwise go without during the weekend. With their help, our team will be spending our holiday party packing over 150 backpacks with food for children in our local communities. We even get to write notes of encouragement and well wishes to include in each pack. And we couldn’t be more excited.
Already, the feelings of gratefulness have grown exponentially in our office. A little perspective took us a long way, from feeling burned out by the holidays to empowered to help make them better for others, and thankful for our own good fortunes that put us in the position to give back. It’s something you have to feel to believe, and we encourage anyone reading to join us in spreading the joy.
If there is a cause near and dear to your heart, or even one you’ve just learned about, set aside some time or money that you might typically spend on the usual holiday suspects and donate it. Don’t know where to start? Check out Charity Navigator to do your homework on the best organizations to give back to. We promise, making all the difference for someone else this season will make all the difference for you too.