We live in an amazing country and have been blessed with opportunities and resources that allow us to live a quality of life only dreamed of in other countries. However, there are still many people that struggle every day in poverty or hunger. Our society has the ability to solve these problems ourselves, and it doesn’t have to come from the government or some other large entity. The solution to these problems lies within each and every person. We can build a culture of service that can feed the hungry and shelter the homeless, and it starts with encouraging kids to engage in community service.
Families are busy. Every day parents shuttle their kids between school, sports, music lessons, Scouts, and not to mention getting their homework done! We do this in an effort to broaden our kids’ horizons, to give them new opportunities, or to help kids become an Olympic star or professional athlete. But what good is all of this if our kids don’t learn the things that really matter when it comes to helping our fellow humans. Teaching kids the value of giving back is arguably one of the most important lessons they can learn, and it is one that cannot be left solely to schools to teach. Everyone has to take part in teaching our kids the importance of giving to the world around us. Marian Wright Edelman, Founder and President of the Children’s Defense Fund said, “Service is the rent we pay for being. It is the very purpose of life, and not something you do in your spare time.” To us, this means that we have to incorporate service in our daily lives, and that it is the responsibility of everyone that comes in contact with a child to teach them, and to model to them what service means. It doesn’t always have to be a grand gesture or project for kids to learn that they can make a difference, it can be:
- Giving a sandwich to the guy with a cardboard sign
- Letting someone ahead of you in the check-out line
- Giving a dollar to someone in need (even if you aren’t sure how they will spend it)
- Sending canned food with a child for a school food drive
- Letting someone out in front of you in traffic
- Or even smiling at someone that looks like they are having a rough day
The key is to make it a priority every day. Encouraging kids to engage in community service and helping kids to realize the impact they can have on the world around them may be one of the most important things we do as parents. One easy way to engage in community service as a family is to make it a tradition. For example, ever year on Thanksgiving, collect food donations for a local food bank. Another great idea is to plan something around Earth Day (April 22nd) or Global Youth Service Day (April 11-13).
I don’t think you will find many people that will say that it isn’t important to teach our kids about community service and philanthropy. But with our busy lives and kids’ hectic schedules, it is difficult to really find time to fit it into your schedule. Between school, sports, friends, and other extra-curricular activities, no one wants to become over extended. The important thing is to set the example for children every day, and hope that it takes. Create your own culture of giving, and kids will take notice. Kids will want to do their good too, and the feeling they get from doing good will stay with them for a lifetime – and hopefully encourage them to keep being generous and kind as an adult.