Small boy reaching for his dad's had along with the title "The Importance of Reaching Out"

By Erin Fonoti

Gratitude and charity are two main components of a happy heart. However, these days it seems like those traits are not valued, or even taught, enough. With entitlement running rampant in today’s youth, I decided to take action with my own children. It doesn’t take much extra effort to make a difference in someone else’s day or whole life. With my son on the cusp of teenagerhood, I felt it was time to put money where my mouth is, to really show him what “spreading the love” means.

Thanksgiving was swiftly approaching when my husband and I decided we were going to provide an entire Thanksgiving dinner for a local family in need. I reached out on social media in the local community groups asking if anyone knew of a family struggling this holiday. My post received many “likes” but not a single comment or nomination. I was astounded. Was there really no one in my community that needed a helping hand? Or was it that no one would speak up and say that they were struggling.


Here at Traveling With Monkeys, we are hosting the  #familyservicechallenge where we invite you and your family to perform one act of a service a day from Thanksgiving (or whenever you want to start!) until Christmas Eve.  At first, it may seem overwhelming to perform an act of service as a family everyday.  But when we keep these acts small and intentional, we really can change the world.

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Thankfully, a woman private messaged me requesting help— for herself. She told me that she was either able to pay bills this month or provide Thanksgiving dinner for her family. And unfortunately, the bills would win out. She expressed concern for nominating herself for the help I was offering, but I was thrilled. I reassured her she was doing a very brave thing for her family by not letting her pride get in the way of spending the holiday with happy full bellies.

By reaching out to us, she was allowing my family the amazing opportunity to give and her family the opportunity to receive—as there are wonderful lessons in both.

After securing a family to help, I asked my kids to sit down and list all their favorite Thanksgiving foods. Our list: green bean casserole, marshmallow yams, mashed potatoes, two kinds of pie, whipped cream, sparkling cider, rolls, stuffing, gravy, and the turkey. My darling 3-year old would chime in with “I like mashed potatoes” or “I want a roll,” being ever so cute and helpful. When we were done making our list, my husband and I informed them that we were making this food for another family.

My toddler seemed confused. She innocently asked, “Why we give our food away?” But after assuring her several times that we would still have plenty of food, she was excited.

Delivery day came, so we set off on our shopping adventure. As with the list, I encouraged my children to lead the way. With their shopping list in hand, they set off through the store, my husband and I pushing the cart behind them. My son would hand each item to his sister, she would put it in the cart (when she could manage—turkeys are heavy!), then he would check it off the list.

Photo of the author's children carrying bags of Thanksgiving goodies.
My kids carrying bags of Thanksgiving goodies.

Upon delivery we were met by the mom and two of her daughters. They graciously accepted the food filled grocery sacks, repeatedly thanking us. As I was handing the woman the last bag, our eyes met, and in that moment, I felt as though could read her mind—or heart. I could feel the love she had for her family, the pain she felt for not being able to provide this way on her own, and the gratitude for the help she was receiving. With a quick embrace and me telling her she was going to be alright, we left.

As we drove away, both of my amazing children told us how happy they were to be able to help another family have a diner that would be as yummy as ours will be. And of course, in true 3-year old fashion, my daughter asked for Mac’n’cheese.

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Photo of TWM Contributor, Erin

Erin, mother of two and Logistic Coordinator by day̵ — wife of one and writer/entrepreneur by night. When she’s not saving the world one corporate event at a time, she thoroughly enjoys spending time with her kids and husband. During the warmer months, you can find her enjoying the great outdoors camping or on the water growing her paddle board business. When it turns cold, you’ll find her on the slopes or the lodge with a warm cup of Joe. When she can get some time to herself (which, let’s face it, is almost never) she can be found with a pen in her hand or in front of a keyboard, making magic.  She aspires to turn her writing and side business into her family’s sole source of income in order to travel the world, fully experiencing Life.


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