In the world in which we live today, it’s sometimes easy to get a little down. I struggle some days to be positive and optimistic.

There are definitely moments when I get upset and troubled. Occasionally it’s a struggle to pull myself out of it.

One surefire way I have discovered to lift my spirits is with the children who donate to the Cumberland Valley Animal Shelter.

We recently had a young girl who had a lemonade stand in her neighborhood to collect funds for the animals at CVAS. She managed to raise more than $900! Can you imagine? I’m thinking she should really go on Shark Tank or something. She’s got quite a head for business.

It’s a Norman Rockwell kind of scene — she set up the stand in her neighborhood and sold cups of lemonade, baked goods and bracelets. She came into the shelter to present the collection and was absolutely taken with our cats and kittens. She got to hang out with a few and just loved them.

Throughout the years, we’ve had kids have fundraisers for us, either collecting donations door-to-door or foregoing birthday presents to collect items for the animals in the shelter.

I’m always amazed by the children who actually have birthday parties where they only get supply donations for CVAS. Some of these kiddos are young — I’m not sure I can imagine being 8 and not getting birthday presents. Talk about true altruism.

Instead of a My Little Pony, there are bottles of bleach. Instead of a G.I. Joe figure, there are bags of dog food. Okay, my references are clearly from my generation, but the point stands. It’s pretty unbelievable.

I have to admit, coming face-to-face with these impressive tykes really can be incredibly poignant. Despite their young age, I really do think many of them fully understand what they’ve done and why they sacrificed birthday presents.

They typically come into the shelter and spend some time with the animals in our kennels, and I swear it’s like they make that connection, that unspoken understanding that sometimes happens between kids and animals, in an instant. The boys and girls will look into the faces of our dogs and cats and rabbits, and it’s as though they truly get it.

It’s sometimes difficult to describe with words.

These situations seem to happen exactly when a lot of us need them to. Maybe that aforementioned day where I’ve been knocked down and struggling to keep going is the very moment when a little one will come in the doors with lemonade money.

And in that moment, the sadness I’d been feeling doesn’t seem that insurmountable. In fact, it often doesn’t seem truly worth worrying about.

Because here is a young child who has shown me the goodness that is really in the world — because no matter how bad it gets, generosity really is out there. It may not always seem that way, but it’s true.

If you, like me, have days like that, try to remember this column. Picture in your mind the little girl with the genuine grin as she held a kitten while presenting her lemonade check.

Imagine the young boy who brought a literal truckload of donations he had gotten from his 9th birthday party and when the camera clicks, he grins like he has the answers to the secret of life.

And really, maybe he does. Maybe they do. Maybe it really is just that simple.

Generosity. Kindness. Giving. Benevolence.

Maybe that’s what life really is all about.

I’ve found in my almost-50 years on this planet some of the best lessons can come from children if we just have the chance to look and see it.

Thankfully, at CVAS, we’re shown these messages exactly when we need them and on a relatively regular basis.


Jennifer Vanderau is the Publications and Promotions Consultant for the Cumberland Valley Animal Shelter, and can be reached at: The shelter accepts both monetary and pet supply donations. For more information, call the shelter at: (717) 263-5791, or visit the website at: CVAS also operates a thrift store in Chambersburg. Help support the animals at the shelter by donating to or shopping at the store.


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