Chris and Tiffany Acker of Seattle make giving an essential part of their daily lifestyle, and they’re teaching their children — Norah, 8, Miriam, 6, and Evan, 3 — to do the same.
Every couple of months the family works together to assemble “Kindness Bags” containing items such as snacks, hand warmers, socks, bus tickets and McDonald’s coupons to give to local homeless people. Chris and Tiffany got the idea from past volunteer work.
“As we started our own family, we had less time and flexibility to volunteer with specific organizations,” Tiffany says. “The Kindness Bags are something tangible we can do as a family to take care of our homeless neighbors.”
They keep the Kindness Bags in the car and hand out a few a week during their daily travels, and Chris gives the bags to his parents and brothers so they can be distributed more broadly across Seattle.
For Norah’s birthday this year, she asked her friends to bring items for the Kindness Bags and they packed them as a party activity. The kids took the bags home to give out in their own neighborhoods, and the concept caught on: Many of the families are now making them in their own households.
“A lot of what Tiffany and I do as parents is model,” Chris says. “We talk about how people are more important than things. We have material resources that aren’t ours; they’re ours to share.”
The couple encourages their children to be giving, and donate toys and clothes they’re not using anymore, but they don’t order them to give something away. Instead, they ask them to consider what it would mean to someone else.
“I mostly give away the toys that I like the most,” Miriam says. “It can be hard at first, but I’ve had my time playing with it and I want someone else to have it now.”
The family also sponsors a Haitian child through Compassion International. The children send her notes and drawings and they love getting letters back from her.
“We pray for her and we care about her,” Norah says.
An advent calendar for giving
The holidays can easily become a season of consumerism, so the Ackers created an Advent calendar focused on giving. Each of the 25 doors opens to a small gesture of kindness. Examples include giving a compliment to a classmate, mailing a letter to a relative and hugging your sibling.
Photo: Joshua Huston