It’s interesting to watch our children evolve and grow over time. They start out very self-centered. With good reason! They are trying to survive so they’re very much focused on having their own needs met.
But as children grow up, they become much more aware of the world around them and the people around them. With this comes a natural desire to help others.
When our second son Brennan was about 9, we had a new neighbor move in. Susan was confined to a wheelchair with multiple schlerosis. Every day, Brennan would come home from school and go over to Susan’s house to help her. He would spend and hour or two every day reaching for things, helping her clean or cook or do a million other things that she couldn’t do by herself. A wonderful friendship grew between this squirrelly little boy and a middle-aged disabled woman. And Brennan grew to love serving others.
Having our children involved in serving others best begins in the home. We can start by having them help their siblings, help Mom or Dad, and help extended family like grandparents. Each year, my husband’s family descends on the grandparents home to work in the yard. It’s a joy to see everyone from 3 to 63 working in the yard together.
The next steps are to help our children serve in the community. Opportunities to do this abound. (United Way’s 2-1-1 website is a great resource.) We’ve had our children clean up parks and trails, serve at community events, collect food for the Food Bank, make quilts for the orphans in Africa and countless other things. My grandchildren have participated in making lunches for the homeless and delivering meals for Meals on Wheels.
As our children participate in service, they learn gain confidence and compassion. They learn skills and attributes such as perseverance, organization, kindness, friendliness, and more. It turns them into incredibly capable people who have a heart.
And one of the best outcomes is that the family that serves together, grows together. The unification that results is amazing.
Teaching our children to serve blesses our families and children and they, in turn, bless those around them. What a gift!
(For ideas on family service, ass “52 Weeks of Fun Family Service” by Merrilee Boyack, available online at Amazon.com)
By Merrilee Boyack