Small Gift, Big Impact: A Mitten Tree

Friday May, 4th is World Give Day sponsored by GiveForward. In response to this simple question, please tell us about a time when a small act of giving created lots of unexpected joy I wanted to share one of my favorite stories from my book, 1,000 Mitzvahs: How Small Acts of Kindness Can Heal, Inspire and Change Your Life.

“In October, I had an idea to participate in some Christmas giving. I shared it with my then nine year-old-daughter, who loves the Christmas holiday and finds it difficult that we don’t have a tree, stockings, or Christmas decorations like other kids. I decided it would be fun to create a mitten tree for the clients of the Dress for Success program I volunteer for. We’d find out what clients needed or wanted for Christmas, and then we’d work with my networking group of approximately fifty women to try to gather the money and gifts. I hoped my daughter would help me make the one-dimensional paper tree with paper mittens on a bulletin board that I could carry to my meeting for the women to choose from.

I gathered the art supplies for our project. Immediately, my daughter began to complain. “I didn’t volunteer for this, how soon will we be done?” she whined. We continued working despite her complaints. I distracted her by reading some of the requested items, which included dance pants for a thirteen-year-old girl. “How does someone who needs our gifts pay for dance lessons for their child?” she asked. “Maybe a scholarship,” I told her. Another woman wanted a Burger King gift cer- tificate so she and her husband could go out to dinner. My daughter commented that she didn’t think Burger King was a very special place to go out to dinner. Another woman requested a gift card for gas. My daughter continued cutting mittens and a few minutes later said, “Wow, Mommy, I am really lucky. We have a house, we have food to eat, we aren’t worried about paying our bills or buying gas. I am glad we are doing this together.” Then she chose a mitten for a grandmother raising her grandson who’d requested a winter snowsuit for the boy.

In December, a thank-you note arrived from the volunteer coordinator at Dress for Success. She told me that seventy-two women had received gifts through the mitten project. To this day, this is one of my favorite and most memorable mitzvahs.


Being a catalyst to make something happen is incredibly rewarding. It requires seeing an opportunity and taking initiative. This mitzvah was gratifying on two levels: first, knowing that seventy-two women received a special gift for the holidays, and second, that my actions taught my daughter a valuable lesson. My role in this mitzvah was being the person who got the ball rolling. The coordination meant collecting and gathering the goods, but this was relatively easy and didn’t even take that much time. The outcome from these simple actions was huge. The recipients and donors alike felt blessed by the opportunity, and I had the pleasure of knowing I’d been the catalyst and a teacher.”

This post is part of a blog series inspired by World Give Day and hosted by GiveForward.  To find other posts in this series please visit or follow us on twitter @worldgiveday.


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