rebelling against low expectations

Preschooler Helps Feed 18,000


There are many reasons given for why someone else (i.e. not you, not me) should do something to help the needy and oppressed. However, being only five-years-old probably tops the list of effective cop-outs. But five-year-old Phoebe wasn’t looking for an excuse — and helped raise $34,000 to feed the hungry. Which makes you wonder: What if we stopped looking for excuses too?

5-Year-Old Helps Feed Nearly 18,000
AOL NewsWednesday, July 29, 2009

(July 28) – Phoebe did something “really big” that raised more than $30,000 to feed poor families in San Francisco last June.

The 5-year-old girl expressed a desire to help feed the needy after seeing a man begging for food through the window of her parents’ car when they passed him by during her daily ride to preschool.

Phoebe set a goal to raise $1,000 to feed needy residents by collecting cans.

Her teacher, Kathleen Albert, told her the dollar amount was a “bit ambitious” for a 5-year-old, but the Phoebe was determined.

She was especially encouraged after talking to officials at the San Francisco Food Bank. They told her several agencies had pledged to provide $9 in food for every $1 donated to the food bank.

Albert helped Phoebe draft a letter to the school’s alumni asking for canned food donations and matching cash gifts. The response was overwhelming. Her stash piled up as donors delivered bags full of cans and checks to help her meet — and far surpass — her goal.

Phoebe’s once overambitious goal seems minuscule compared to the check for $3,736 she gave to Paul Ash, the executive director of the San Francisco Food Bank. With matching donations from the charity’s large network, Phoebe’s donation will result in $33,624 worth of food — or 17,971 meals — for the city’s hungry.

“We get many gifts of this size, but with this one it’s a real emotional boost,” says Ash. “I’m going to be speaking to a bunch of lawyers tonight, and I’m going to tell them about her. I’ll say, ‘If Phoebe, 5 years old, can raise $3,700, we as adults can do more than we’re doing.’”

“I think it is very important to teach children to give back to the community,” Albert said. “I see so many adults who walk around and have no idea of that. It doesn’t matter your wealth, you can still give back. It teaches kids that small donations can add up to big donations.”

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About the author

Alex and Brett Harris

are the co-founders of and co-authors of Do Hard Things and Start Here. They have a passion for God and for their generation. Their personal interests include politics, filmmaking, music, and basketball. They are both graduates of Patrick Henry College in Purcellville, Virginia.


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  • Wow, thats awesome to know that even a 5 year old can raise that much money. Sometimes I underestimate my potential and instead of taking a step of faith in doing something I stand in fear and ask myself what if this? and what if that? Sometimes I just think that we should think like little kids that dont think about the risks they just try things

  • That is amazing. I see what Jesus meant about the having the faith of a child. The simple belief that she could do something overpowered any doubts that may have been present.

    I have to admit, though, it’s really easy for me to look at this and say “A five-year-old did this? I’m ten years older than her, and I’ve never done anything remotely close to that.” It can be discouraging to continue to do small hard things while it seems that everyone around me is doing big things. Does anyone else know that feeling? How do you combat it?

  • Amazing how God works through small people with big hearts.
    Didn’t He say that to enter the Kingdom of Heaven we have to become like little children?
    May God richly bless Phoebe, and use her story to inspire and encourage many!

  • What an amazing story! It is so nice to see little Phoebe helping the homeless and the hungry people. For most preschoolers, all they mind is to play, play, and play. But to her innocent young age, she knows, sees, realizes, and learn to help others. This is truly a wonderful story that at her age, God is with her. May we all have the same faith in pursuing to make a difference and the love that she has for others.

    This is not the end, it is just a start. God bless you in all your works, Phoebe.

  • Such a great reminder that we ought not think something is too big to try. God blesses our work sometimes… and other times He grows us in patience… what a blessing to see how He has blessed the efforts of this girl.

  • That is so amazing!
    God can truly help anyone, no matter how young, to do amazing things for the world and the people in it!
    It’s so awsome!
    I’ll be praying for her as she continues to help pople through all this!


  • Wow, this is so incredible. This just goes to show everyone, that God uses everyone no matter what their age or how big or small they are. If Phoebe managed to do something like this at the age of five, just imagine all of the things that the Lord will use her for in the future!

  • wow, that’s amazing, I can’t believe that, God had to have a special thought in her mind…Hey Alli! If you are who I think you are, Hello, How you doing?

    Josiah Blanchard

  • WOOT! You go, kid! $37,36.30? That’s incredible. I love the fact that she inspired all the adults, too. And from cans? Whoa!
    Jordan, absolutely I know the feeling. Who wants to pick up their room while other people fight slavery and raise thousands of dollars for ultra-sound machines? But we have to do the small hard things.
    I think one way to combat the “big only” idea is to look at it in terms of Matthew 25, or the other Talent parables. When the master returns from his journey, he says to his two servants, “Well done, good and faithful servant. *You have been faithful over a little, I will set you over much.*” If we’re not faithful in the little things, how could be possibly be faithful in the big things? HTH.
    Solo de gloria.

  • Jordan: I know exactly what you mean! It’s really hard for me because I want to do the “big hard things” so much that I forget to have joy in, or even do the “small hard things”! It’s like my mind is automatically set on huge accomplishments for Christ. While I forget it’s just as “big” to be respectful to my parents!

    Wow! That is very, very amazing! Go Phoebe! 🙂


  • Wow, that is amazing. Puts us “big” teenagers to shame. I see a rebelutionary in the making and I wish I had started that young. May we live up to the standard of a five year old and even more importantly may we stand up to the standard of Jesus Christ.

  • What an encouraging story! Thanks for sharing it guys!

    Jorndan: If Phoebe wasn’t faithful to respect her parents (so they’d listen to her), obey her teacher (so he’d help her), and remember the poor in daily life (paying attention to people begging onthe street), she’d never have started her “big hard thing.” Small hard things prepare us for bigger ones later on. Phoebe is blessed to see that fruit at such a young age. The bulk of humanity has to work at it for a few more years :).

  • This is such a reminder that God can use anyone – big or small – to accomplish His big plans for the hurting and destitute in this world.

  • Wow! GO PHOEBE! That is incredible! God is so great! It is amazing to think that a five year old could do something that big! It makes me think, at fourteen years old, what I could do to help others! Thank you so very much for posting that! God bless!

  • EPIC!!!! That is what this world needs to hear. I think we all needed to hear it. I hope a lot more then 18 people reply to this. We could seriously do amazing things. Thank you Phoebe for stepping up. Even though we teenagers can’t even get are lazy self’s out of the bed in the morning. It’s time to join her.

  • Way to go Phoebe. God can use anybody HE wants to do HIS will no matter what age. It just goes to show you how powerful the God we serve is. Great job. Keep up the good work.

  • Wow that is really just amazing!
    Praise God! If a 5 year old can do you better beleive that teenagers can, this is really just so inspiring.

  • That’s what I’m talking about! Think of how many teens and adults that that little girl has already surpassed. At 5 she is thinking what some never even give a thought to. I’m sure she will grow into someone amazing! This makes me realize I need to get out there and start trying harder!

  • Wow!!! Go Phoebe! God sure did put a great issue on her heart. What an amazing little girl to not get torn down by the low expectations of so many who did not think she could meet her “small” goal. People are so surprised when they find out that at age nine I raised over 1000 dollars for the local library. When I see this it almost makes me think just how small that was. A girl with a BIG heart and a BIG dream and a SMALL age can do BIG things through a BIG GOD. This is not the end! I’m asuming God has big plans for her future.
    Phillipians 4:13

    Always and forever in Christ,
    Grace Leigh

  • wow! that’s really amazing! very encouraging and challenging. I believe she was able to do big hard things because she had a BIG GOD with her. 🙂 praises and glory to the Most High.

    God bless! Keep it up!

    co-slave and co-rebelutionary in Christ,

  • I have been reading “Do Hard Things’ out loud to my kids (all under age 13) during breakfast. I was asked why I was reading a book addressing the teen years to them- but this blog entry is exactly why- I don’t want them for one minute to buy into society’s notion that the life of a child should be composed of eating, sleeping, and playing. And my kids are excited about being challenged in this way- I can see the sparkle in their eyes as they consider what hard things they can accomplish in their young lives.

    Thank you, Alex and Brett, for this website and the book. It’s been a tremendous blessing to my family.

  • This is awesome. It makes me wonder, if a five-year-old can do that, what can I, a sixteen-year-old, do? It is very inspiring and I think I want to show my siblings so that they can see that no matter how old or young you are, God can use you to make a difference.
    But I do think that it is important to note that while raising as much as she did was terriffic, not everyone is going to be able to do HUGE things like this. Sometimes it’s God’s desire for us to work in the small things. I’m not trying to negate what anybody has done or wants to do, but I’m sure that there is someone out there is probably thinking that they aren’t able to help God because they aren’t able to go out and raise that much money. The things we do at home is serving, too. Just thought I’d throw that in.
    Praying for all,
    Kay Morris♫

  • That’s such a sweet story!!! She gave such a good example to others as well. May god bless her and her family!

  • Wow!! That is SO amazing! It’s wonderful to see that you don’t have to be an adult or even a teen to be used by God! You can be a 5 year old! How wonderful!

  • That is one amazing girl! “From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise…” Psa. 8:2
    Jesus taught several times how we need to be more like children. Their trust, their humility are very similar to what God wants ours to be. (Matt. 18 and 21). Thank you Phoebe!

    Kay, I totally agree with you. Everyone has their own unique calling. Not everyone’s is as big and noticeable as what Phoebe but just as important.

  • That is incredible! It i amazing how God can use any of us to do Hard Things! We should follow her example!

  • WOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    That is one determined little girl. Can´t wait to see what else she does………..
    I felt like crying -from happiness- when I read about her.

  • It’s amazing how much compassion this girl felt for people who are in need. Kay said not all people are called to do huge things. I agree that small things are serving, but people would rather be doing big things. Why? Because like Alex and Brett said They don’t seem important and they don’t seem to make a difference, but I think the biggest one is nobody cares or nobody really knows. the reality is though, we shouldn’t take pride for our “big” things because God is using us as a tool. Its not us that made the difference. It’s god. Who cares if nobody knows about your “small things”. Small things prepare us for big things. Like the Vikings did by rowing their boat.

  • Woa!! Thats one determined kid!!!
    Makes you wonder why we don’t do more. Honestly! If a 5-year-old can do it, what in the world is standing in our way?

  • WOw! So encouraging! Jordan, I think we should try not compare ourselves to others. Yes, Phoene is five and she raised a lot of money for a great cause, but the encouraging part is she did something. By taking action, she is inspiring. Think about it. Phoebe proved you don’t need to be qualified to serve others and glorify God.

    A few months ago, that money was not at the food bank. She was the catalyst for making it happen. I mean, you have to start somewhere. Phoebe started with nothing, and the small steps, through presistence, expanded. We all have that potential. Start now. Do something today, even if ( or should I say especially if?) it is a tiny action. Time is on our side, and so is God. 😉

  • Speaking of making big differences in life,
    Alex and Brett: I’ve wanted to ask you guys if you ever thought The Rebelution and Do Hard Things would become so big among so many teens?
    Did you ever think it would change so many people or make such a big impact on so many lives?

    Sorry, I’ve just wanted to ask that for a long time now =)


  • That is so incredible, and also so encouraging. To think that each and every one of us could be a Phoebe, could do so much for God in this messed up world! I was just on my way to put up a post on the forums about my new blog, the Elijah Project, and this really inspires me to trust that God will use me to do big things for Him!

  • hello!
    If there is something in the world that i would like to shout at, that’s the low expectations of many people about teenagers!
    But i can’t blame them though..
    That’s what most of the teenagers are doing too!
    I, too was inspired by the book “do hard things”
    It made me realize that God has given me potentials to serve Him more.
    And because He gave it to me, He has the right to expect it from me.
    Now, i just want to do an extraordinary thing with the help of my
    Extraordinary God!
    Just recently, God has given me a mission
    that is really hard for me.
    But there is nothing really hard for my God.
    And i’m willing to submit to it, by God’s grace.
    I also need your prayers. Please pray for me.
    I’m praying that more and more teenagers will get out of their comfort zones and use
    the best years of their lives to focus in serving the KING of kings and the LORD of lords.
    God bless you all!

  • Adelpha:

    That sounds just like how I feel/felt after reading the Do hard things book.
    My life has changed so much but I love it now, I am living so much for God instead of living for myself!
    I’ve had tough spots but it’s so worth it!

    I will be praying for you, you can count in it =)

    God Bless

  • She is truly a inspiring girl, and it is just like her mother said, ” the little things add up.” This is not something I will forget anytime soon. Amazing story.

  • God bless Phoebe!

    P.S. Alex and/or Brett, could you perhaps speak to the Moderators on the Forum on my behalf? I changed my email address and since then am unable to access my Forum account. Thank you and have a great day.


  • How cool is it that a preschooler can accomplish so much, it’s an inspiration to those way beyond her in years. Way to go phoebe.

  • That is so encouraging! If only us teens thought to do the same as this pre-schooler, there would be many less people going to bed hungry. This is definately something to keep on our minds as we go about our day- as I go about *my* day.

  • WOW!! Talk about ‘Do Hard Things!’ She certainly does take the cake. It is encouraging…and embarrassing at the same time. If she can do that, I can definitely do more. Absolutely fantazing!!! 🙂

  • That is so encouraging! It really makes you realize just how much we can accomplish if we live by faith and not by sight. Sometimes when things seem hard or impossible on the surface we decide to give up or not even try because by the world’s standards it’s impossible. By ourselves we can do nothing but through Christ we can do ALL THINGS! All things are possible for those who believe.
    We need to start believing in God instead of ourselves. That is so encouraging! Thanks guys!

    Be Blessed & Be a Blessing,

  • That is very amazing and overwhelming!!!!!! I hope that through this story more people will learn that by doing a little can lead up to alot! I am also inspired by Phoebe’s childlike faith! Alot of people need that! Way to go Phoebe!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Wow. This has definitely inspired me. I came to one of your conferences about two years ago and afterwards I really wanted to do something BIG. In the past two years I have still had that want. Right now I am working on that big thing.

  • This is the most amazing things I’ve ever seen. This makes me think of the saying from Veggie Tales ( I know I’m a little to old but I remember it from a long time ago) Little guys can do big things too. I live in Cleveland and enjoy going to Cavs games, and when walking to The Q from the parking lot I always see this homeless man with a rattered blanket and my older brother tells me not to stare. So I don’t and I ignore the guy. Now I want to do something about these people in Cleveland. So thank you Phobe for not only helping the homeless in your community but inspiring people who are older than you to think about others instead of going on with their own friends and staying in their comfort zone.

  • thats incredible… what an inspiration to the rest of us. who knew someone that young could make such an impact on so many people 🙂

  • Wowzie! Who knew that God would work through such a young girl to do something so amazing! I knew. I’m sure if we all really let God work through us the WORLD would be different. Kutoz to her! just like David and Goliath (1 Samuel 17).

  • Thats awsome. I can imagine if 5 more or 10 or 20 more people thought like her, they would accomplish sooo much. Godbless her heart.

  • Ohmigosh! It’s so incredible, which is why it’s so unbelievable! Thank God that He put such an ambitious desire in this generous young lady’s heart! Talk about a glorious ambition!

  • Wow. If that’s not convicting I don’t know what is. Think of how much more we teenagers can do. We’re at least twice her age, yet we don’t even think of things like that. We’re “used to it”. What if we got “used to sin”? I’m totally just sharing my thoughts and talking as much to myself as to ya’ll. I think we need to get out of our comfort zone and not be conformed to this world.

  • Too young to know it’s impossible, so she does it anyway. That’s what I like to see! She is a real inspiration and I hope to be more like her―believing in the power of small things instead of dismissing an idea as unworkable. God bless her.

  • That’s pretty convicting! When a preschooler does more than you’ve ever done, that’s when you know you’re slacking! How many times does 0 go into 36,000?

  • That is an awesome story!! That little girl did an amazing thing she did it even though she had an excuse that anyone would have said she’s right she’s only 5 but that didn’t let that stop her in today’s world people make many excuses why they can’t help.. But when you read this story you realize that you really have no excuse at all!! I think deep down inside all of us know that we don’t have a logical excuse but at the some time we do nothing to change that– we say are excuse and go do are own thing. I’m convicted in many ways I’ve had oppurtunities before that i’ve blown because of my “excuse” or my laziness.. This story is very inspiring and at the same time very convicting it causes me to realize that I dont have any excuse at all!! This little should be an example to all of us–isn’t it funny that we are to be the example to that little girl and in the end she’s an example to us?!

  • Wow that is So awesome and inspiring that a little child like that could accomplish something so big. Now I feel more inspired than ever to go out and help the needy as much I can. If Phoebe can, then we can!

  • It’s just like the veggietales song, “With God’s help, little guys can do BIG things too!” =) this is a great story. Thanks!

  • WOW thats amazing.
    That proves it…..No matter what your age GOD is working through you 😀
    P.S. SO CUTE!!!!!

  • Yet another example of a child being more capable than adults when it comes to selfless giving. Jesus prays in Matthew 11:25, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children.” And in Matthew 21:16, “Have you never read, ‘From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise’?” Clearly, God intended for children to make more of an impact than, say, a snobby professer. I believe this is to bring glory to God, rewards to children, and humility to the rest of us.
    May sweet Phoebe reap rewards in heaven!!! 🙂

  • With havin so much written content do you ever run into any problems of plagorism or copyright violation? My website has a lot of unique content I’ve either written myself or outsourced but it appears a lot of it is popping it up all over the web without my authorization. Do you know any solutions to help reduce content from being ripped off? I’d really appreciate it.

rebelling against low expectations

The Rebelution is a teenage rebellion against low expectations—a worldwide campaign to reject apathy, embrace responsibility, and do hard things. Learn More →