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Dec. 12, 2022

Episode 77: A Christmas of Service with Natalie Silverstein

In this podcast episode, DJ invited Natalie Silverstein back on the show to discuss the many opportunities for giving and service around the holidays. Tune in as they discuss the hope we all have to raise grateful, grounded, compassionate and empathetic children and how to do that through modeling a life of service, being aware of others, as well as keeping our eyes, ears, hearts and minds open to the needs of others… not just during the holidays but throughout the year.

Natalie Silverstein is an author, volunteer and passionate advocate for family and youth service. Her first book, Simple Acts: The Busy Family’s Guide to Giving Back, was published in 2019 and was named as one of the Top Books for parents who want to raise kind kids by the HuffPost.  Her second book, The Busy Teen’s Guide to Making a Difference, launched in July of 2022. After a successful career in healthcare, Natalie became the New York coordinator of Doing Good Together, a national nonprofit with the mission of helping parents raise kids who care and contribute. She lives in New York City with her husband and three teenagers.

• [8:54] DJ & Natalie discuss the many opportunities for service around the holidays… and that people are in the mood in November and December but how the need isn't only a two month need.
• [18:31] Natalie talks about the importance of making the holidays special for other people. 
• [32:08] Natalie explains: “Don't forget that there are gifts, lots of them, actually, that give back.”
• [37:27] DJ poses the profound question: “What do you want to GIVE for Christmas?”

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DJ Stutz  0:13  
We think you should know that Imperfect Heroes podcast is a production of Little Hearts Academy USA. 

You're listening to Episode 77 of Imperfect Heroes, Insights Into Parenting, the perfect podcast for imperfect parents looking to find joy in their experience of raising children in an imperfect world. And I'm your host, DJ Stutz. Natalie Silverstein was a guest on my podcast, though, back on August 1, and it was episode 58. And we talked about making service, a part of our family culture. Natalie has two books out her first book was called simple axe, the busy families guide to giving back and that was published back in 2019. And that book was actually named one of the top books for parents who want to raise kind kids by the Huffington Post. And then her second book, the busy teens guide to making a difference came out just last July. And now Natalie has started her own podcast called simple acts with Natalie Silverstein. And this is one of my favorite podcasts, they are short, and every guest has a teenager that is somehow involved in some kind of service in the community. And on top of all of that, she's also the New York coordinator of doing good together. And that's a national nonprofit with the mission of helping parents raise kids who care and contribute, which goes along with the whole mission and purpose of Little Hearts Academy and the podcast. And if that isn't enough, she and her husband are the cofounders of the Silverstein foundation for Parkinson's with GBA. And that's a nonprofit focused on finding a cure for Parkinson's disease. In the GBA mutation carriers. I get tired of just thinking about all that she does. There is so much to learn. So let's get started.

A couple of months ago, I was approached by an educational support group called counsel Academy. And they were asking if I was interested in working with them to put together a certified program for tweens and teens who are interested in creating their own babysitting business. And of course, I was definitely interested. So here's the deal. On December 19 2021, and 22. We will be meeting for just one hour each day. And students are going to be able to learn about child development for infants, toddlers, preschoolers, and elementary age kids. They're going to learn how to manage conflict, what to do with the unexpected basic first aid, and how to approach babysitting as a business. So they are going to get some business information and things that they can do to maybe become entrepreneurs on their own as they get older. We're going to talk about how to find safe clients, how to get repeat business, how to get referrals. And there's going to be actually a quiz at the end. And so when you pass the quiz, you're going to get a certificate showing that you've completed the course. And if you're interested in that, all the information is going to be in the show notes. And so you can just sign up for that there. 

Well, Christmas is such a special time of year. And I love the time that I spend on my podcast, talking about Christmas, and different activities that enrich our lives and help us become better people. We love seeing our happy children wake up Christmas morning, and opening their presents with those squeals of delight. And for me, the greater joy was when I got to see them begin to come up with their own ideas of how to make a Christmas joy for someone else. And sometimes it was for someone within our own family. And other times it was for a classmate or a neighbor. And while teaching our children about the joy of giving is a year round thing. We seem to put our best efforts this time of the year. And I'm so grateful that Natalie has agreed to come back and remind us of all the good things that even the youngest among us are capable of doing. So let's listen. 

Welcome everybody and thank you for choosing to spend the next few minutes here at Imperfect Heroes podcast. And today I'm really excited. In fact, I love this lady so much. I'm having her back. And it isn't even Bailey. It is Natalie Silverstein. And we talked earlier about service and involving your family and service. It's a great episode, if you want to go back and look it up. But I asked Natalie to come back, because I was thinking of a Christmas of service. And Natalie, you're the expert, you've got it down. And so I asked you to come back. And you graciously said, Yes.

Natalie Silverstein  5:39  
It is absolutely my pleasure to do so it's so good to see you again, DJ, and I love thinking about Christmas in the middle of October, that is just joyful. To me.

DJ Stutz  5:50  
It makes it fun, doesn't it? Yeah, so we're recording this a little bit early. And so make sure that everyone has free time for the holidays and to be with their families.

Natalie Silverstein  6:00  
Absolutely. And it's super important. I want to point this out, if you have some hopes of doing this type of work with your family around Christmas, you need to start early. And you need to if there are volunteer shifts, or if there's a program that you want to get involved in in terms of adopting a family, I'm sure we'll get into all of this, you have to actually think about it in advance, right? You can't just 20 if say, Oh, I wish to go out and do a little service for Christmas, you're going to be too late, because organizations really need to know who they have in terms of volunteers and how many gifts they have to give away. Right? So these things start early. So it's a great thing to be thinking about this in advance. Yeah,

DJ Stutz  6:40  
it really is. And I think what you get involved with is really going to have a lot to do with the ages of your kids. Obviously, if they're smaller, there are other things that may be certain volunteer opportunities that you would look at that would be different than if you have teenagers.

Natalie Silverstein  6:57  
Absolutely. And listen, I we're also going to talk today, hopefully a little bit about things that you can be doing in your own home, not necessarily out in the community. So that certainly lends itself to families with younger children. So I call those things kitchen table kindness activities, which you should be doing every day of the week, every day, over the All Seasons all the time, all holidays, but around Christmas, that's especially and Thanksgiving, those things are especially sweet. And really having your kids think about gratitude, and think about their things in a really meaningful way. I think that's what Christmas is all about.

DJ Stutz  7:32  
Right? Well, so in November, which is funny, because it's in the future. But as we'll load this, it will have been in the past. But in November, we have the five day challenge on gratitude. And so I'm really excited to see how that goes. We've got some good people signing up. And so hopefully that'll get us started.

Natalie Silverstein  7:53  
Absolutely. And as you know, the science shows the research shows that if you express gratitude, if you write it down, if you say it out loud, every single day with consistency, you actually need to feel more grateful. This is a scientifically proven fact, by saying thank you and being grateful and expressing gratitude. Even if it's only writing it down to yourself and a little journal by the side of your bed, you start to feel more grateful inside. And so I think these are the lessons that we have to share with our kids. That's that's walking through your days meaningfully and with intention and with gratitude, and it makes you feel better, which is

DJ Stutz  8:29  
Yeah, in fact, the science is showing that you have less incidences of depression, suicide rates go down. All of these things really take care. And there's now studies that are going on to connect living in gratitude and then service. Yeah, is connected to physical health.

Natalie Silverstein  8:50  
100% 100%. Absolutely.

DJ Stutz  8:54  
Pretty exciting. So one of the things and we were just talking before we started recording, and I loved your idea. But we were talking about how there are so many opportunities for service and people are in the mood in November and December. But that the need isn't only a two month need.

Natalie Silverstein  9:13  
Right, right. Well listen, if you find an organization that you can partner with around Christmas time around, thanks, let's say so what are we talking about here? Thanksgiving is food and Christmas is toys. Those break it down, right? So Thanksgiving is food. And I like to say food is love. We have an organization here called God's Love We Deliver which delivers medically tailored meals to folks who are not well, they deliver millions of meals a year. It's an extraordinary nonprofit. And their tagline is food is love. And so I use that all the time because that's the truth right? And people need food every single day. And we all think about helping around Thanksgiving and helping and food pantries and soup kitchens and that sort of thing. around Christmas time we think about children primarily. So we think about toys. And so if you are able to find an organization that you can partner with, and I'd like to mention today, when we're going through some ideas, you know, don't just think about children and toys, think about women who have escaped their homes and are living in domestic violence shelters, maybe eating a stocking filled with toiletries, little perfume, a little piece of jewelry, a little something feminine something to make them feel good about themselves. And and donating those those stockings to a domestic violence shelter. Perhaps you develop a relationship with an organization that does this work, again, 365 days a year, that you can continue to do this kind of work. So maybe it's books that the women need, maybe it's if you're an attorney, and you can provide some legal counsel, there are ways that you can continue to be engaged with these organizations. In the immediate for Christmas, what we're going to talk about today is maybe toys or gifts or things to make a special, warm and happy day, Christmas Day itself, which is what everyone should have to celebrate the holiday. But then what can your family be thinking about doing as you move forward into the new year? And what a wonderful time start the new year, right? Start the new, this intention of continuing that relationship or finding other ways to help in your community? So I see, I see the wonderful work that people do around Thanksgiving and Christmas, not as a cynical like, oh, people only do it at Thanksgiving and Christmas. And then they forget, I hope that it inspires people to continue to this to do this work, you know, all year long.

DJ Stutz  11:31  
Right? Right, absolutely. So let's go ahead and get started on some of the ideas of things that we can do. So we already kind of said that you're going to have to rethink it a little bit when your kids are really young. So what ages do you think that your child is going to be old enough to go out and be an active part of that service project?

Natalie Silverstein  11:54  
Well, you know, it kind of depends on the organizations that you're working with. Right. So my whole goal here in New York City is to find family friendly volunteer opportunities that people can do with children of all ages. But I recognize that many times you can't. But I will say that around Christmas and around this kind of gift giving idea. Luckily, there are lots and lots of organizations that are asking for donations of toys, toy drives, and that sort of thing to help, you know, again, ensure a happy holiday for children. But you know, these are some organizations that you're you're very well aware of, but that you can maybe take that extra step instead of just if you're at the the Walmart or something and you see the box for the Marine Corps Toys for Tots and you buy a toy and just toss it in there, right? Because you're already shot. I think it's important to let very young children pick out a toy, right to have this conversation before walk in the store. And I think you'll agree with this, as someone who has worked with young children, you have a conversation before you walk in the store, that we're going to look for a toy for a child, a boy or a girl who had who does not, who maybe doesn't have a family to give them toys. So you've written your letter to Santa. But what can we do to perhaps make a joyful holiday for someone else, so give them the ability to pick something out for someone else. Another great idea in that same vein is to do an adopt a child or an adoptive family program. And there are tons of those, those can be hyperlocal. Right. So in your community, at your church, at your community center, the Catholic Charities does an adopt Family Program Samaritan's Purse, does a very American Express, very robust program about adopting a family adopting a child. And so what's beautiful about that, and if your church has a, perhaps they have a tree in the front where you can literally pick an ornament off and it's got the name of a child, perhaps their sizes. The beauty of an adoptive family or adopt a child is again, you connect to a real human being, right? It's not just an empty box at the Walmart. Okay, so now we have the name of a boy or a girl their age, maybe what they like their favorite color, their sizes, and that the joy of walking around the store and letting the child pick out the things like that is super fun. And I think that that's a way to engage even very young children. I mean, obviously, toddlers, they're gonna want for themselves. They don't get what we're doing here, but we're talking 567 years old, they'll get this because they know that the presents are coming for them too. So I really think that if you're going to do that sort of work, really try and engage the child in that work as well. And Toys for Tots of course has boxes everywhere. There's a wonderful if you have any interest in supporting our active duty military and their families, which I hope you do I certainly do. Operation help. The hero is a wonderful organization and they have Operation Christmas spirit, which allows you to adopt an individual soldier or a military family you can host a toy drive. You can write letters to active Duty. So think about it, again, something that needs to be done a little in advance, but our active duty military are serving far, far away from home. And so what can we do? The USO has a wonderful program, what can we do to help them have a joyful Christmas and to remind them that we remember them back home, the US Postal Service has, I'm sure people have seen this. It's called Operation Santa. And it's a concept I just looked online, they open for four matches on November 28. That is where if a child writes a Dear Santa letter with their request, which just says Dan Santa at the North Pole, the US Postal Service collects these letters, and allows them to be chosen by folks who volunteer to fulfill those fulfill those requests. It's very sweet, sweet program. And we talked about Samaritan's Purse, they have Operation Christmas Child, which has a wonderful website, you pack a shoe box, with gifts, and then all the instructions, everything that you need to do to ship that off to a specific child, you can also volunteer at their distribution centers. The armed services YMCA has something called Operation holiday joy, your local Ronald McDonald House, there's a Ronald McDonald House and pretty much every community right, they will be available to receive gifts and that sort of thing. So again, the opportunities abound. If you keep your eyes yours hearts and minds open, and I think very young children can see the joy in this like picking out the toy, wrapping it, you know, creating a card with with the child's name on it, or the family's name on it, you know, drawing a picture for them. You know, engaging kids in this work, even from a very young age really kind of sets that foundation for them as they get older. I also want to mention, before we move on, there's a great company or an organization that sells something called the giving manger, have you heard of this DJ, I have not. It's fabulous. So I want to say it's the giving or something. So if you Google it, I'll look, we'll put it in the show notes. So you you receive in the mail, a crash. So it's it's got little pieces of straw and a baby Jesus and a little, you know, the Volk little crash. And for every act of kindness, it's sort of like, you know, the, the calendars, the advent calendars, but every time so you set it out whenever you want to whenever you want to start this process. And every time the child does an act of kindness, they can take a piece of straw and put it in the little manger. So that by the time Christmas, the Christmas Eve comes along, the manger is filled with all these little sticks that represent the little pieces of hay. And then maybe Jesus can be on this in this little manger. It's, it's The Sweetest Thing, if you follow them on social media, they post pictures of children, you know, helping someone open the door or sweeping or helping a sibling. And then for every act of kindness, they can put a little piece of hay in the manger. And it's and it builds up over time as we anticipate Christmas. So it's a little bit like an advent calendar, which without the chocolate, I just think it's a terrific the giving major is just a terrific little activity. And again, it just anticipates the joy of this holiday. And it combines it with giving and kindness which is, which is really what it's all about. It should not be a laundry list of gifts that they want, you know.

DJ Stutz  18:31  
Yeah. And I think it's gotten more and more out of hand as a society has grown. I mean, what kids get now compared to what I got is, night and day, I'll

Natalie Silverstein  18:42  
tell my daughter who dances who hire a new pair of dance shoes, either tap shoes, or ballet shoes or something like every day because her feet grow every day. I told you one year, a Christmas gift I got was a pair of ballet slippers. But she gets those like every day because she grows like It's like nothing. It's like buying a cup of coffee, we buy pet ballet slippers. But it was such a special special special treat to get a pair of ballet slippers and, and to some extent, I hope that we can, you know, kind of find that specialness again. You know, it's not about 100 presents under the Christmas tree. It's about one very special thing that the child really wants. And we want to do that of course. And if they believe in Santa, we want that to be special. But what can we do? What can we be doing for other people to make it to make it bright for everyone? It shouldn't just be a bright and special day for our family.

DJ Stutz  19:31  
Right? Another group that I think gets really lost in the shuffle during the holidays are some of our elderly and so we've had years where I've taken groups in to sing songs or I mean it can be very basic and they are so thrilled, but one year I got together I had a preschool group that I was attached to and the parents we got together when the evening and All the little kids, they were just cards that the kids had drawn on and written on and whatever. And they got to go to this home. And they were handing out Christmas cards personally, to the elderly. Oh, my gosh, you thought that was gold we were handing out

Natalie Silverstein  20:20  
as an percent. Well, I mean, we may have talked about this the last time we spoke, but there's a statistic that says something like 80% 70 or 80% of institutionalized elders in this country received no zero visitors every year. Why? Because everyone's gone, or they've been moved very far away from their family and friends are, you know, they don't have any family leftover, they get no visitors. And so think about the joy of this group of children coming in, I mean, their eyes just light up. I mean, I have on my list of notes here, of course, you know, writing letters, making cards, drawing pictures, doing small crafts, you know, creating you can make all kinds of sweet little things that are inexpensive, but would be so appreciated. But really, the visit is the most important thing and spending a little time singing songs, Christmas caroling, right, just literally going door to door, because sometimes folks can't even come out of their rooms or if they're in the room. I mean, a local senior center nursing home assisted living facility, would be delighted to welcome your group, your family, a group of families that wanted to get together, I just think, you know, if, if you're Jewish, go and light the Hanukkah candles and sing the songs. I mean, that is a gift. And to me one of the most beautiful ways to share the joy of the season, because it is a very sad day. For some people, they might not receive any gifts, they might not receive any visitors. And I absolutely think that's a wonderful idea. I just want to mention two great organizations. One is called love for our elders, and the others is called Letters against isolation, which was started over the pandemic, which is all about writing letters and emails and zoom calling and all kinds of things connecting with our, with our isolated elderly. I think that is so so important.

DJ Stutz  22:14  
Yeah, I have a good friend, and she's back in Denver, but we still call and talk. And she's not in a home. She has a little studio apartment. It's in a public housing building. It's like 13 storeys tall, maybe 12. And she's on the sixth floor. And November, she turned 99. And it was so much fun. Like for years, I have had the pleasure of going to visit her. Oh, it depends, like sometimes when she was healthier, it was maybe just once a month. Other times it's been maybe multiple times in a week to check on her. And to make sure she was okay. And so sometimes maybe they're not even in what Sean institutionalised place. Yeah, maybe it's just

Natalie Silverstein  23:07  
your neighbor, right? The neighbor, who can't get out and you don't really realize or, you know, listen, this, we're talking about Christmas and gifts and all those wonderful things. But it's no forget the snow falls, it's icy. If you're if you're shoveling the snow in your own front yard, and you know that this neighbor is elderly, and is going to have a hard time getting to their mailbox. And their mail got mailbox is their main point of connection to the world. Go ahead and shovel that walk or better still ask your child or your teenager to go out there and shovel that walk and to put this tweet the sand down or to go and get the mail on the really bad days and bring it in. If you're headed to the market. You can give that person a call and say what can I get for you? And well, I'm going out anyway, we talked about this. These are not things you're not putting yourself out. You are already shoveling your snow, you're already going to the market. What can I do for you this is what good neighbors have always done. Unfortunately, we've isolated ourselves and we've become sort of siloed and whatever. We're not as open door as we used to be. But I hope that we can get back to that because especially in the wintertime in some parts of our country, not necessarily. But in some parts of our country. It's very, very isolating by the time when it gets very cold and very snowy. And one other thing I wanted to mention about snow and cold and all that in wintertime, it's not really Christmassy, but I do think it comes around the same time. There are wonderful organizations that collect coats for both adults and children. There's operation warm, and one warm coat. These are two different national nonprofits that ask you to do coat drives. Remember, we buy coats for these children and sometimes for ourselves. And they are gently used because our kids outgrow these coats to do with them instead of just taking them to the goodwill. Let's donate them. They clean them up and they hand them out and that way folks who are unhappy Most people who had don't have resources can get warm coats locally, we have New York cares here in New York City does a massive coat drive called the New York cares coat drive. But it's kind of part of a national network that's called Give Kids give a kid a coat. So if you do a Google search in your neighborhood, in in your, in your area with your zip code, you will find a code drive. And I promise you like what a wonderful easy way to help others in your community to get through just a difficult times, you know, scarves and hats and mittens and all of these things. This impacts so much and impacts people's ability to go to school. Yeah, you can't stand at the at the bus stop in Minnesota without a proper coat. Period. Right. So so folks who don't have or don't have proper shoes or don't have proper coats, it really impacts their ability to get to school on time to get to work to be healthy and well and to to just live to just live. So I think that's a an important one to think about in wintertime.

DJ Stutz  26:00  
Yeah. And you brought up shoes. That's so key to this little guy. He's now in high school. So I taught him kindergarten. And there was one year, well, one day he came in, it was snowing. And he had this little sweater on, and he had flip flops that were huge. And I'm like, buddy, where? Where are your shoes, you know, where's your coat, and he goes, this is my coat. And this is mom's blood clots.

Natalie Silverstein  26:33  
Right? Right now, it's, it's heartbreaking. I mean, there's layers and layers and layers to this. But again, if you find an organization that helps marginalized people, folks who are, you know, who have who, for whom food stamps are an issue, like, there are layers and layers and layers of things that you can be doing. And the holidays are just a wonderful time to make to make Christmas Special. Certainly, you can provide gifts and toys and those things which are so important. But then on an ongoing basis, what are the things that you can do a code drive, a food drive in the spring, whatever it is, and you know these things, as you develop these relationships in your community. It just connects you and and I think that those relationships are so so important. I want to mention that. We talked a little bit about kitchen table kindness, and yes, and that your kitchen table, because you talked about like with young kids, I do think that there are things that kids can be doing all the time, you can help them decorate placemats that can be given to Meals on Wheels, you know, organization, again, making sort of cards that they can do, you can have them have sang into recordings, and and you know, send those out to family members. You can you can make little haircuts, which are for folks who are experiencing homelessness, you can create like a little ziploc bag with you know, with toiletry items, and those sorts of things. You know, again, these are things little hands can do so, so much, we don't give them enough credit. And I think with just a little, a little foresight, a little planning ahead. It also frankly, keeps them busy while you're cooking dinner or whatever. Those types of things that your children can do. You know, you're baking cookies, let's say you're you're in a cookie swap, right? A lot of people do this for Christmas. Yeah, you're swap you're already baking cookies. So could you double the batch, and make individually wrapped plates of cookies, and give them you know, take them to the elderly neighbor, take them to the nursing home, take them to the police station and the fire department right to thank those folks who have to work on Christmas typically. So you know, all of those little things that you can be that's those are things all everything I just mentioned is done in your own home, while you're already doing this type of stuff with your kids arts and crafts, and baking and all those nice things, and they can benefit other people as well. And it just brings up the joy and the spirit of the season. You know,

DJ Stutz  28:59  
it absolutely does. I just in fact, last week heard about program that I never even thought about. But there's like over 200 Diaper banks in the United States. So much like a food bank, they collect diapers. And just I was on a website and it there's a national diaper Bank Association and I went on their website just to check it out. And some of the stories are just heartbreaking of families that are struggling and he thinks well they could use cloth I used Yeah, I'm that old. I use class with my first two. But then there are restrictions with washing machines. If you're living in an apartment building, they don't want employees. Yeah. And see so there's but what a fun thing and what an easy thing to do.

Natalie Silverstein  29:50  
Yeah, no diaper need is a huge issue. A diaper drive would be very, very important for you know, again, homeless shelters, foster foster care agencies, no diaper need is massive, because again, they're very expensive. And they are disposable. As you know, a newborn, a small child can go through many, many diapers in a day. For some families, it's a choice between buying food and buying diapers, putting gas in the car and buying diapers. And then what fortunately happened, sadly, is they reuse dirty diapers. So they might clean them out. And we use that, that causes diaper rash, and worse. So this impacts the child's health, they can actually get infections and terrible things, they have to go to a hospital. So now we're getting health care bills, you're losing time from your job, because you have to take them to the doctor, right? Just provide clean diapers for folks. Everything would be better across the board. It's just a basic human need. And it's such a simple, simple thing. And people forget that. So true.

DJ Stutz  30:53  
Yeah. And if you don't have I mean, with 200 in the country, there's probably something close to you. But if there isn't, you can always go just directly to the homeless shelter or a food bank and a food bank would take them as well.

Natalie Silverstein  31:10  
Because remember, food stamps, WIC, you know, the food stamp program, you for any toiletry items. So feminine, feminine hygiene is not covered diapers are not covered, those types of things. So again, this is weirdly, it's considered a luxury item. But it's not. It's a basic human necessity. A woman needs feminine hygiene during her period. And baby diapers. That's just, that's just the reality. But again, back to where we started, if you develop a relationship with a great organization, that it's helping folks across the board, you'll buy toys at Christmas, and you'll be like, Hmm, what is the next thing? How else can I? How else can I be helpful? For sure,

DJ Stutz  31:52  
yeah. And it was fun when we were talking just before we talked about maybe your gift, your Christmas gift to an association that you relate to that it means something to you, is a year's worth of service, not just this one time thing.

Natalie Silverstein  32:08  
I also want to mention in terms of gifts that you give each other in your own family and amongst friends. Don't forget that there are gifts, lots of them, actually, that give back. And so I always sort of look for, you know, we do give like a small thing to our mother in law, we give a thing to our neighbor and our dog walker and our this and our that there are organizations and many charitable organizations that and you'll see these in Macy's and other major retailers that they have a relationship with a charity. And so a portion of the proceeds of this scarf, this hat, this one has a portion of proceeds are going to go to a charity St. Jude Children's Hospital, which is what I'm at which was one of my mom, my late mom's favorites, which provides as you know, cancer treatment to children for free. They do not ask a penny of families who are struggling with this horrible, horrible situation of fighting cancer in their child, they have a wonderful book of gifts. And it's just like candles and scarves and a little hat or little baby. And money. You buy one of these things that to give to someone else as a gift. And the money the proceeds of that go to St. Jude to help children with cancer. I mean, that to me is like a win win win win win, right? You know, so you're buying a scarf anyway, or you're buying a candle anyway, you know, look for the ones and it's not hard to find you if you Google gifts that give back around the holidays, even starting around Thanksgiving time, you will find lots and lots and lots of things that you and typically, if you have a major charity in your in your area, they will provide these opportunities. Ivan know many organizations sell Christmas cards, so you can have your own personalized Christmas card. Merry Christmas, from our family to yours. And on the bottom it says proceeds from the purchase of this card go to x, right so you're going to send a Christmas card anyway. So who would you rather the money go to? Do you want the money to go to Hallmark that doesn't need your money? Or do you want the money to go to this charity that you support? So just be mindful of those choices.

DJ Stutz  34:16  
When you think about all the money that you're going to spend on Amazon, let's be honest, this year, but they've got that Amazon smile. It doesn't cost you a penny. St. Jude's is on there. And Operation Underground Railroad which rescues children who are involved in the sex slave trade and human trafficking. There's so many ways that you can do that they've got much others but those are my two favorite

Natalie Silverstein  34:44  
AmazonSmile is everyone should that should be your default setting when you go on Amazon backslash smile and you can choose your charity and at the end of the year they send you a little list that shows you how much money your donations sent to that organ. as Asian, it's, it's so easy. It's brilliant. You're shopping on Amazon anyway, why would you not do that?

DJ Stutz  35:05  
Exactly? Yeah. It's odd and odd to me, it's kind of ridiculous not to

Natalie Silverstein  35:10  
write. Totally. These are just and it's, again, it's just being mindful. It's just thinking to yourself, I'm doing all of this, I'm spending all of this, what else? You know, how can I? What can we do? Such that we are not just spending money and having it go out the door, but like, really think about the way that we're spending our money? And how can we make sure that others are sharing in the abundance of this beautiful holiday? You know, I mean, there are ways to decorating your home. And to have that, you know, you can make a have kids make a little paper chain, you know, to decorate your mantel or to decorate your Christmas tree, and have everyone in the family write something that they're grateful for. That's a nice, Thanksgiving or at Christmas. And then you staple those together. And here it is this sort of physical manifestation of gratitude, right? So you're going to decorate anyway. You know, you're going to ask your kids to decorate and the tree anyway, why would you not try and incorporate some some ways of really being mindful that we're so blessed to be able to celebrate, to have a home, to have each other to have some meal, some number of gifts or each other? I think it's also super important that we think to ourselves as the kids are handing us the footlong list for Santa, perhaps just suggest to older, slightly older kids, probably I think little kids have a harder time with this. But so look at your list, and you're going to get something from this list, you're not going to get everything right. But what went on here, what could you maybe think about that you would want to give to somebody else to make their holiday brighter, this sort of notion of donating one of their own gifts to others. I think these are important conversations to start to have with kids that are at the right age developmentally appropriate. But it just keeps them sort of grounded. Right? That this isn't like me, me, me, me, me. I want I want I want I want Yeah, try and come way back down to what this holiday is all about. And why we're celebrating this house holiday and what it means. And just you know, it seems cliched, but like really what is this? What is the spirit of the season? And how can we have kids start to internalize that a little bit?

DJ Stutz  37:27  
Well, and I love the idea of changing the question around. And so starting at about age three, I'll ask a child, what do you want to give for Christmas? And it throws them? Yes, it throws them? And you'll have to remind them? No, that's not what I asked. Yeah, I didn't ask what you want. I asked what you want to give, and to kind of start getting them to think about it. But it's amazing how young kids are able to start thinking so a few years ago. Well, no, it was only two years ago. Sorry. I started doing the donation bingo. And so you make I think we talked about this last time. How this little boy, he was only three years old. His mom emailed me with the story. But she used the donation bingo. So for those of you who didn't listen to our last night, you could go back and listen to it. But for here it is for you. It's a bingo card, and I have them on my website if you want to look it up, or you can make your own. But we had a car and truck and you know, so we had one for boys and one for girls and then something yellow, something green. And so he got his bingo, his mom did it with him. And he got his bingo. And so she was like, Yay, you know, and I think she had a popsicle or some form. But she was telling him how these toys were going to go help children who don't have toys. So he was so excited when she's three years old. Remember, he was so excited when he realized that he was helping other kids. He wanted to do blackout. He wanted to fill the whole card. And then even then he still wanting Jews almost Are you sure you want to get that one.

Natalie Silverstein  39:17  
But here's the goal, right is to get to where it is so joyful to give to other people, you get such a kick out of it yourself. You see the joy you've you've created for someone else or there's something you've achieved in giving to other people that they want to continue to do it. And that's and I think if it's all like me, me, me Give me gimme, gimme, we've missed out on that whole opportunity. Right? I think you know, a lot along with the giving manger and these other kind of little leading up to Christmas activities. I think, you know, a challenge, a kindness challenge and the doing good together website. That organization that I work with has a bunch of them but there's definitely one at the holiday time and it's very similar so you print this thing out or create one for yourself, as you said, if you want to start on the day, after Thanksgiving, as many people do, you know, every day, there's a kindness challenge every day, there's something else that you need to be doing for you take the take the garbage out, visit, you know, write a sweet note to someone, you know, bring flowers to your neighbor, whatever it is, there's a challenge every day that they can check off, right, they love checking off the thing that leads them to Christmas Day or Christmas Eve. And those we do kindness challenges at the beginning of the school year, we do one and you know, the beginning of the new year, but you can do the, you know, 25 days leading up to Christmas, whatever you want to do. And again, I just think it grounds them in. Yes, I'm anticipating Christmas for my gifts that I'm going to get. But what am I going to give, in addition in anticipation of that, and that's what the giving major is sort of a physical manifestation of that with that reactive kindness is this little piece of straw and it's just such a cute concept. But I think anything that you can do like that, and maybe have set things that you do periodically throughout the month leading up to Christmas, that's not about getting, but it's about giving. So again, the cookie swap. We're gonna make cookies tonight and we're gonna deliver them to the to the fire department or the police department or whatever it is. I think you're I might have shared this with you on our last episode, but we celebrate Hanukkah and my family and as you know, that's eight nights. And I said to my kids right off the bat, you're not getting eight nights a presence. I don't know who made this call today. I'm certain that that's not what the Maccabees intended. So we're gonna write so, you know, it's a festival and joyful. It's wonderful, and it's about family and food and getting together but somehow it's gotten mixed in with lots and lots of gifts and that wasn't going to fly for my family. So one night again, we bake cookies and we give them to neighbors. One night we will do a visit to an elderly family. And so there's an organization here that matches up families with with homebound elderly, and they do a wonderful Hanukkah program to Jewish organization where you go they give you a baggie. It's got a little tiny menorah. It's got little tiny candles and matches and cookies and a dreidel so you can play that little dreidel game and it's you know, a song sheet and some other little treats and you go to someone's home. And so from a very young age, we were we were matched up with this couple. They were Holocaust survivors. They were very elderly, they had the numbers on tattooed on them. We would go to their home, the gentleman had had a stroke. So he was nonverbal, but the gal was like so Spry, and she would run around and make us you know, lockers and we would, we would light the candles, we would sing the songs. We went back there year after year after year for about seven or eight years until sadly, one of them passed away. But my every year that I would say, Oh, we're we're going to visit the shorts is that's one of our nights of Hanukkah. And it got to the point where my kids would say, what night Are we going to see the shorts is Yeah, because loved going there. They had a cat and the fact that for them, Hanukkah became one night we do this one night, we do that for others. One night we go see the shorts is who are not related to us, these are just these lovely people. That is really, I think, a very special. That's the memory, I would argue that they will keep as they grow older, and then they're raising their own children. They won't remember the Barbie doll. They won't remember the Lego set. They will remember the visits that we had with this lovely couple and the things that we learned and the memories that we made. And of course, after they've passed away, we've gone to visit others as well. But those are the relationships, those are the things that we want to instill in our kids. That's the meaning of the holiday of any holiday. Right. And so I just think that that's, you know, that's so important. I mean, this story about this little boy, like his joy from doing this bingo was about giving to others, you want to engender that you want to try and grow that. And I think that that's that's successful parenting, and that's successful holiday preparation and holiday celebration, right? The stress and the money and the cooking and the cleaning and the people make themselves crazy with these holidays. And if we could just scale it back down to what it's all really about. I think we'd I think we'd all enjoy it a lot more.

DJ Stutz  44:26  
We would and because there's that I don't know it's it's almost indescribable, but the feeling that you get when you know, you've brightened someone else's day, and you've done something that is truly meaningful to them. It's it's pretty amazing and what a gift to give, talking about gifts. What a gift to give your children and your family is to have those feelings inside our country. He's gone a little crazy. And we're very busy being angry at each other. And so I think I'm worried that without this without us as parents, consciously trying to make this part of the lives of our children, I think we're going down a very dark road. But I think, by as a parent and as a family, we do make this part and we don't care what their politics are, what their job is, or whether they're vaccinated or not. Right, but we just do for another human being. And that's part of who we are. That's where I see the redemption of our country.

Natalie Silverstein  45:47  
Amen. You know, there's that's the only hope we have, right? This is the Yeah, this is to raise grateful, grounded, kind, compassionate, empathetic people. And the way to do that, in my view, just you know, from square one here is is a life of service, serving others, being mindful of others, keeping eyes, ears, hearts and minds open to the needs of others. And what a beautiful opportunity that we have. With Thanksgiving with Christmas with a new year. Let's start the new year, right? This episode is about Christmas, and the things we can do around Christmas. And there are so many and I hope people got some good ideas from our conversation. But what can we now say on January one? What can we do as a family every month, pick a pick an idea, pick a theme, pick an organization, you know, either a new theme every month, or we find something that we really enjoy. And we do it once a month together, we make the time, it's not about having the time, it's about making the time because we make time for so so many other things. And I just think if we can use Christmas as our springboard for that, again, kind of coming back to basics. All about, I think we would all you know, we'll all just start the year off a little bit happier, and a little bit more optimistic and hopeful. For sure.

DJ Stutz  47:12  
I so highly agree. Natalie, you're amazing. And now, I want everyone to realize too, that you have this podcast that is so cool. I love listening to it. And I love the people that you get on it. Talk to us just a second about that.

Natalie Silverstein  47:29  
My second book, the first book was for young families. As we've discussed, the second book that just came out this past summer in July is the busy teens guide to making a difference. So it's specifically for teenagers. And as I was researching it, I realized I was meeting all of these amazing teens, you know, and now as I'm going out and speaking to groups, I mean, there are teens starting nonprofits, they're doing fundraisers. And what's fascinating is a lot of the work started during the pandemic, when they were, you know, kicked out of school sitting, depressed, disorient you know, disconnected from others. So, so many of them had the inspiration for these, these events in these organizations in this work that they're doing that they're really passionate about over the last couple of years. So I was like I really, every time I talk to one of these kids, I feel better about our future. I don't want to share that with the rest of the world. So it's a short podcast, it's only about 15 to 18 minutes. I just want to hear that teens story. What sparked their inspiration? What was their passion? What did they do? How much money did they raise? How many people are they helping? And what are the challenges they face? What have they learned? It's really wonderful. I'm so inspired every time I talk to these young people, so I'm only interviewing teenagers. And I love that, because everyone says to me, oh, you should talk to so and so they started this organization. And I'm like, Are they an adult? And they say yes, I'm like, Nope, I only want to talk to teens. I actually interviewed at a nine year old recently. So that was very sweet. But like, if a kid has enough gumption, to put together a nonprofit, or a fundraiser or something to really try and help someone or something in their community, I want to hear about it. I want to amplify that story and share it with the world. Because I think it will inspire everybody that hey, if these kids can do this, so can I it is up to all of us, right? And I am every single episode. I'm just blown away. And I hope that people listen. It's called simple acts big impact on celebrating teen changemakers. And it's frankly, it's making it's bringing me so much joy. So I hope it brings others the same.

DJ Stutz  49:33  
Well. I love it. I haven't listened to every episode, but I've listened to a few, quite a few. And they it just puts a smile on your face and you get those warm, fuzzy feelings. And

Natalie Silverstein  49:42  
I mean, these are your kids. Some of them are 1415 some, some are seniors in high school, so they're a little more sophisticated. But I will tell you every single time I asked them and then at the end sometimes if we have time I asked if they had a magic wand. What would they do? How would they how would they fix the world? What problem Would they solve? How would they change things for the better, and I'll tell you, it could bring a tear to your eye. Because, boy, if they had a magic one, we would all be better off. And so me a lot of hope, I'm very optimistic with these kids, they're going to be purpose driven leaders. And that's what we need, I think you would agree, we need, we need leadership in this country in this world that cares about other people. And that lives, their lives with purpose. And so that podcast is all about thank you so much for doing so we're gonna have

DJ Stutz  50:33  
the information on your podcast, and your books in the shownotes. And so I hope we really inspire some people to just make this part of their culture, their family culture, and you know, we're going to change the world. That's the way it's gonna happen.

Natalie Silverstein  50:52  
I hope so. I hope so. DJ, me too.

DJ Stutz  50:55  
Well, Natalie selfesteem. Thank you so much for spending this time with us. I truly do appreciate it.

Natalie Silverstein  51:02  
Thank you, and Merry Christmas.

DJ Stutz  51:03  
And Happy Hanukkah. All right. Natalie's amazing, I love her. And I love her energy and just the outlook that she has on life. And if you would like to get more information on Natalie, on her books, on her nonprofits, and on her podcast, all of that information is going to be in the shownotes. 

Well, holy smokes, we have so much going on. You know, we just finished that five day challenge on living in gratitude. And we had the open enrollment for the Cicerone society in November. And we have even more events and opportunities to engage and get the support that you need to better enhance your confidence as a parent to create the path and blaze the trail of raising independent kind and successful children. And so go ahead and sign up for our newsletter, so you don't miss out on anything. You're going to find it on the website, which is And of course, the link will be in the show notes. And next week is a special treat as we come closer to Christmas. And we are thinking about how we can make Christmas spiritually meaningful for our little guys. I have as my guest, my absolute favorite person in the entire world. You've heard me talk about him. And you know, I love him with all my heart. His name is Russell Stutz. And he has been my sweetheart since the day I laid eyes on him when I was 17 years old. So join in with us next week as we talk about things that we did things that we wish we did things that we've heard us since then, in ways that we can make Christmas meaningful for our kids and for our family. And so until next time, let's find joy in parenting.

Transcribed by

Natalie SilversteinProfile Photo

Natalie Silverstein


Natalie Silverstein is an author, volunteer and passionate advocate for family and youth service. Her first book, Simple Acts: The Busy Family’s Guide to Giving Back, was published in 2019 and was named as one of the Top Books for parents who want to raise kind kids by the HuffPost. Her second book, The Busy Teen’s Guide to Making a Difference, is launching on July 12th.

After a successful career in healthcare, Natalie became the New York coordinator of Doing Good Together, a national nonprofit with the mission of helping parents raise kids who care and contribute. In this role, she curates a free monthly e-mail listing of family-friendly service opportunities that is distributed to thousands of subscribers. Her personal essays have been published on several national platforms including Medium, Grown and Flown and Motherwell.

Along with her husband, she is the co-founder of The Silverstein Foundation for Parkinson’s with GBA, a non-profit focused on finding a cure for Parkinson’s Disease in GBA mutation carriers.

Natalie earned a master’s degree in public health from Yale University. She lives in New York City with her husband and three teenagers.