Every community is like my community. And neither side of any community's coin is discrete. The generous can be hurting, and the overwhelmed can still squeeze in generosity. The glue of any community is connection - knowing that we're not alone, and being willing to help each other out.
Like the tongue-in-cheek saying about voting, learning a lesson of service toward others is something to do early and often. Kids take their cues from us, folks, so we may as well explore ways to make service fun. Here are my top 5 ideas. Leave your thoughts in the comments - I would love to hear those too!
- Let the kids brainstorm on what they would like to do. Follow standard rules of brainstorming. Write every idea down. Don't judge. Let the ideas flow. Sure, it may not be possible to build an army of robots to deliver groceries to elderly shut-ins, but that idea may be a jumping off point for something totally do-able.
- Look for opportunities that mesh with your kids' interests. Do your kids like riding bikes? Volunteer to help build mountain biking trails. Do your kids love to perform? Go to a senior living facility and entertain the residents. Etc. etc.
- Invite your kids to help with your pet service projects. If you already have a steady volunteering gig, invite your kids to join you, and treat them like a peer volunteer. Whether or not they want to admit it, your kids like spending time with you. A day of helping others can turn into a really special day.
- Help kids understand how they are helping. Dragging your child along to a food pantry and telling them to separate cases of juice boxes for 2 hours won't be very meaningful unless you do some work to help them connect the dots. Your child may not have any idea of what it means to be chronically hungry. They may not understand why someone would buy food at a store versus take food given away at a food pantry. Help them understand.
- Include service in family traditions. Kids eat up traditions. They love that every year, your family gets pajamas and a movie on Christmas Eve. They love that Halloween night ends with a pot of chili and a candy exchange with neighbors. Build service into your family traditions, and they will love that too.