This past weekend my 13-year old daughter and I volunteered to perform a day of service work in our community. Our commitment to service work started when she was 5 years old and we volunteered time at our church selling pumpkins during October. She knew that the pumpkins were grown by Navajo Indian farmers for income. Having sold pumpkins for the past 8 years, autumn isn’t the same unless we serve our time in the pumpkin path and her of sharing with customers whom their money is benefiting.
As my daughter has grown the service work activities have increased to what is age appropriate for her. As a teen-ager, I feel she’s at the age where the service work needs to be serving out in our community. This past fall she worked at a Food Bank packing dry meals of rice and beans for families in Haiti or Africa. Assisting in the packaging of over 600 meals that day, she felt good knowing she made a significant contribution to the lives of people who desperately need nourishment.
This past weekend, we volunteered our time to provide household improvement at a low-income housing facility in our community. We were assigned painting an apartment that was in need. The irony of me painting walls for something that I would happily write a check for was not lost on me. As we worked through the day, I felt blessed to be of service to those who can’t afford to write a check.
That day, my daughter was in awe of the how tiny a child’s bedroom was in comparison to her own. For me, these are teachable moments for my daughter. When she shared with me her surprise at the size of the room; it allows for conversation to flow around topics which I can talk about until I’m in blue in the face. But when she’s standing in that child’s room the impact of the conversation is significant. It also allows me to point out that some of her assumptions may be incorrect based on her experience of being a single child. That tiny room may be for 2+ siblings.
My daughter and I strive to perform at least one service work opportunity every three months. Our next opportunity will be for Special Olympics scheduled in the Spring time.
There are many different avenues for service work and many can be done with children depending upon your interest. Below are a few interest areas to explore:
Sports Interest: Take a look at Special Olympics website to see when this is scheduled in your area and volunteer. Communities often have fund raising activities around sports like running, biking, golfing, etc. Volunteer your time to assist the day of the event, participate and perhaps even do a little fund raising along the way.
- Animal Interest: Consider volunteering at a local animal shelter. I have a friend who loves dogs; but can’t have one at home due to a family member allergies. She volunteers at a local shelter and has many opportunities to walk and play with the dogs.
- Community Service – Habitat for Humanity chapters are nationwide. You can contact a regional food pantry or local church to see what community projects they are involved in.
- Military – You can do a web search on local service events to honor or serve those in the military and/or their families. Packaging care packages for soldiers overseas is a great idea for those with children.
- Elderly – Meals on Wheels in a nationwide program where you can take prepared meals to those who can’t get out. Also, contact a local retirement home to see if they have elderly who are in need of visitors. Many have outlived family members in the area and would like to have someone come in and visit with them. I have a friend who loves to make quilts and distributes them to residents.
- Children Entertainment – You have talents as a clown or magician; think about volunteering your time at a Children’s Cancer ward at a local hospital.
I feel it’s our moral obligation to make a regular time commitment to serve in our community with those that are less fortunate than we are. This is a value I want instilled in my daughter and only way I know to instill that value is to live it.