Sisters Tina “Red” Pennington (a warm-and fuzzy stay-at-home mom) and Mandy “Black” Williams (an extremely pragmatic retired corporate executive) – co-authors of  “What I Learned About Life When My Husband Got Fired!” – discuss the concept of giving.

Once the High Holidays pass, it seems to become the “silly season” with one holiday quickly following another. I feel like I’m running out of hours in the day, and afraid that I’ll lose sight of what’s truly important.

Maybe you need to stop and think about the ice cream story.

R: What are you talking about?

B: A few years ago, I sent you Robin’s Make-A-Wish story – the 4-year-old who wanted to be “boss of the ice cream man” so that he could give away free ice cream to other children.

R: I forgot about that.

B: Although the wish was granted by our chapter in Houston in 2008, I remember it like it was yesterday. The fact that it became one of the national “season of wishes” stories once he was in college reminds you of the power of a wish.

R: It really is incredible that Robin knew the importance of giving at such a young age. I guess some kids have greater wisdom than many adults when it comes to knowing what’s truly important.

B: I think it is as straightforward as Robin knew ice cream made him happy, and his illness made him sad and frightened, so he wanted a wish that would make him happy. And, he wanted to share that happiness.

R: Well, you don’t have children so you don’t realize that “sharing” isn’t necessarily something that comes naturally to them. In fact, I often have to remind the girls that they’re sisters and need to share with each other. Needless to say, that doesn’t always work.

B: Remember “monkey see, monkey do.” Telling them to share will not be as powerful as demonstrating sharing.

R: Good point. Natasha and Sawyer have learned far more about charity from you, and your involvement with Make-A-Wish, than I could ever have “told” them. It all started with them asking about the Make-A-Wish logo on your race car. Which soon led to them setting up a lemonade stand at our next garage sale with all the proceeds going to Make-A-Wish. Now, they get involved with school fundraisers, and sometimes even organize their own charity projects.

B: So they are willing to share, just not with each other. I think that is part of the sibling job description.

R: Cute. But I have to admit that I find it amazing how much you’ve done for Make-A-Wish.

B: Make-A-Wish does far more for me than I feel I do for them.

R: But you’ve not only donated a lot of money to them, but you’ve used your Ferrari race car to raise money for them.

B: My involvement happened by accident when I was invited to play in a Make-A-Wish golf tournament, and at the dinner, several children talked about their wishes. It made me realize not only the power of a wish, but what really is important in life. And, what is not. Make-A-Wish is my reality check.

R: Yes, unfortunately sometimes it takes seeing someone who isn’t as fortunate as you are to make you realize how lucky you are. It’s the holiday season and it’s sad to think one child may have a holiday “wish list” that totals hundreds of dollars, while another kid, who might only live a few miles away, would be thankful for just a hot meal.

B: But charity is not only about giving money. It can be donating time − either volunteering or fundraising. In fact, the first wish, which ultimately led to the formation of The Make-A-Wish Foundation, happened in Arizona when a 7-year-old boy wanted to be a police officer “to catch bad guys.” Different people contributed different things.

R: I guess “giving” is different things to different people. I know throughout the year the girls and I donate toys, clothing and books we no longer use.

B: Exactly, but it can easily become a significant part of your holiday tradition.

R: That would be a great way to remind us of what is truly important. Any suggestions?

B: Create a Hanukkah charity night … and celebrate with ice cream.

“Red and Black” were raised in a Jewish home on Long Island in New York and currently reside in Texas. To learn more, see

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