The Davis Family
Maura & Aaron Davis
Nate, 7 years old, Flora M. Singer Elementary School
Margaret, 5 years old, St. John the Evangelist School
Caroline, 1 year old
What inspired you to make serving our community a part of the fabric of your family?
I think it is a few things.
One, we are so fortunate. We have good jobs that allow us the financial comfort to do many things. But we don’t have to look far to see those who are not as financially fortunate. Wanting to give to our community was an easy decision. We have, so we share. Aaron and I both believe that is our responsibility as humans.
We want our children to be happy, yes. But more importantly, we want them to be kind. In many situations, we ask our kids, “What is the most important thing?” And they know the answer is “to be kind.” We want them to face the world with a kind heart.
And, finally, all of this way of thinking comes from the way we were raised. My parents raised five kids on one teacher’s salary, sending all of us to Catholic school. We certainly had enough but we didn’t have an excess. And yet my parents always found a way to give to others. Every Christmas, they “adopted” kids to mirror our family for gift giving. And I remember my mom wouldn’t just get what was on their list. She’d buy socks, and toiletries, and grocery gift cards. The lesson was that we had enough, so it was our job to share with those who might not.
And their way of thinking came from my grandparents. Among their many charitable works, my paternal grandparents started a food bank in Erie, Pa. My grandmother recently passed away and giving her eulogy, my brother remembered summers where he’d tag along with Mimi and PopPop, stocking the food pantry, delivering communion to the sick. My grandparents understood the importance not only of serving but of instilling a servant’s heart in their grandchildren.
Aaron’s grandparents were holocaust survivors. They experienced the worst kind of inhumanity. But they were not bitter people. The opposite—they were welcoming and inclusive. They came to the U.S. by the kindness of virtual strangers who helped them get started. They never missed an opportunity to repay the kindness they’d experienced. And their children noticed. Aaron’s mom talks about her mother’s focus on being sure children had warm clothes. (I’m sure a product of her experience in brutal winters in concentration camps.) My mother-in-law makes a point to share warm clothes, hats, PJs, etc.
How do you find opportunities for your family?
We keep our eyes and ear out for opportunities that we think will connect with the kids lives. The easiest way for them to understand our responsibility to serve is to understand the gap in what some do or do not have. An example, we took them to A Wider Circle at Christmas to work in the “North Pole.”
What role do your children play in selecting charitable organizations or activities?
It is age dependent. At 7 1/2 years old, Nate is more aware of the need or others than Margaret is. He’s old enough to understand when we explain the need but not quite old enough to seek out the cause or organizations. We’re working on that!
What has been the easiest way for your family to help others?
Through birthday giving. Each year on the kids’ birthdays, we ask them to choose an organization to donate to. The level of choice we give the child depends on age. For first and second birthdays, Aaron and I pick the organization that means something to us. As the kids get a little older, we pick two-three organizations, describe them to the birthday boy/girl, and let them choose from that limited list. Again, we try to pick an organization that might resonate with that specific kid. One year, we let Nate choose between a book drive or asking for financial donations to KaBOOM! since being read to and playing outside were two things he loved to do. (He choose KaBOOM! and they were wonderfully appreciative, giving him a tour of their offices and a scooter race with the founder!)
As they get even older, we’re still helping them choose their birthday organization, but we’re letting them (really just Nate at this point) think about how to make a donation and set his goals. So for his seventh birthday, he choose Comfort Cases and he set out to collect donations for seven complete cases. He and I went on Amazon and put together a wish list and then I created a check list for him. As donations came in, he checked them off. He quickly exceeded seven so we doubled it to 14 cases.
What has been the most fun way to help others?
I think we all really enjoy spending time in the Greater D. Diaper Bank’s warehouse. There is plenty of work for the kids to do to feel useful. And diapers are a very clear and concrete thing for a child to understand. They understand why a baby needs diapers. Thinking that a baby wouldn’t have diapers is clearly a cause for concern in a little one’s head. We used DCDB as an opportunity to introduce our kids to service because we thought it was
Do you have any advice for parents looking to give back more?
I don’t think of myself as being in a place to give other parents advice! I guess the only thing I can think of is that it is never too late. I have had numerous friends comment about our birthday giving. Saying that their child wouldn’t go for it (charitable contributions instead of toys) because they didn’t start early enough and he/she already associates birthdays with getting things. I don’t think we give our kids enough credit. First of all, allow me to be clear that my children still get plenty of toys! There will always be grandparents or aunts/uncles, friends who want to give a gift. And as they get older, my kids sincerely express satisfaction in giving to others.