A post by Producer Jessica Cribbs.
A couple of months ago, a dear friend Facebooked me and said this…..
“I wanted to ask you, as you seem to have the expert status on this–do you have suggestions or ideas on how to get young kids involved in volunteer work/charitable giving? I really want to start, I think my little one is at the perfect age, but I’m just not sure where to begin. We are not church people, so it’s not something we can do through a church or anything, but you are always doing such amazing things with your kids and I thought you may be able to lead me in the right direction.”
First of all, I want to make it clear that my children are as selfish and whiny as any of yours….and Facebook can make anyone look like a champion parent. It’s just harder to post the crappy moments, ya know, due to the embarrassment and all.
It just so happened that the day she wrote this email to me, my husband and I had just returned back from feeding the homeless at a local shelter, with our two older children in tow. Her timing was perfect because giving was on my brain….and so was how to explain to a 5 year old what the ‘N’ word means after his small ears overheard the crazy woman in the middle of the street screaming it to a young black man coming in for some food. My boy literally turned to me and said,
“Mom. What does N***er mean?”
Sorry, I can’t even type it, as it makes me cringe.
Oh, the opportunity for life lessons are everywhere.
I emailed my friend back a response and in the middle of it, I told her I felt a blog post coming on…so, here it goes.
I don’t claim to actually know (or accurately execute) the first thing about how to create loving, kind, giving children, as I, myself sometimes surprise myself in my own selfish, egotistical ways. But, my first suggestion is to take it very slow and don’t have high expectations of some breakthrough in the child’s understanding of the need to serve others.
Children are selfish by nature and have a hard time looking outside their own lives…and that’s as it should be and all natural. It takes time.
I do think there are several things you can do with the little ones.
Have a lemonade stand or a “toy yard sale” and give 50% to a local charity. I say 50% for kids, because it would be hard for little ones not to hang onto some of it, and it’s ok. My kids, when they earn money, know that they divide into thirds…some for saving, some for spending and some for donation. The sale might add up to not more than 5 bucks, but it’s perfectly fine. It gives you opportunity to plant little seeds for growth. The #LemonAidForOK Stand we did for the tornado was 100% to charity, and my kids had a hard time for 5 minutes about that…but we talked it through and they were willing to give it all up. It takes time.
Pay attention to neighbors and friends…if anyone is ill…husband out of town, elderly neighbors who live alone, friends who’ve just had babies….make them a dinner and have the kids help you…and write a note or a picture. This gives you opportunity to talk about paying attention to those around you and doing things for others without being asked.
Sponsor a child. If you can find it in your household budget, do this. You can even help your child earn money around the house to help pay for this, talk about a sense of accomplishing something! World Vision and Compassion are two of the biggest, most successful ways to do this, but there are others out there.
Call the local Children’s Hospital and see if they need gently used toys for any wards in the hospital. Have the kids choose 3 toys of their own that they can give to children who are sick…and could use a bit of cheering up. If that doesn’t work, give them the task of those 3 or more toys and take them to the Salvation Army…or pack them up and ship them to me! I’ll take them to The Genesis House where some children who will get a home for the very first time in a long time can receive them.
When your daughter is ready, Join Girl Scouts. I was never a Girl Scout, but my eldest is and the self-confidence and serving these girls do for their community is outstanding. It’s a great organization. They can join as early as Kindergarten.
Have your child participate in a charity Kids’ Run! You could even sign up for The Rose Run and go for a walk on your own or with a group of friends who register…. the money goes to breast cancer, and they may not get it, but it still gives you the opportunity to talk about serious issues. These might be issues we sometimes protect our little ones from. If that doesn’t work, there are certainly more races out there with actual finish lines where they would feel accomplished!
Give anything you have at the moment to a homeless person…even if it’s just 5 minutes to listen to a crazy ramble about space people on Mars. That is a HUGE stereotype, but it’s true. Many homeless are on drugs or want money for something you or I might not see as fit to spend money on, but judgement is not mine. They are human and desire a look in the eye too. I’ve also passed a homeless person sitting outside a store…when we go in (if it’s a quick trip) I’ll buy a water, maybe a toothbrush and paste, a few snacks and a gift bag. After paying, I’ll put it all in the gift bag and just hand it to the person on the way out…I’ll say “have a nice day” or “this is for you, take care.” The kids see me do it, and it genuinely gives me pleasure doing it.
If we have a BBQ at a park, we’ll pack up our leftovers and hand them out. At Christmastime, we raid daddy’s closet for a few sweatshirts he doesn’t wear anymore and wrap them in Christmas paper…then hand out a few surprise gifts around town on Christmas Eve or Morning….the kids LOVE doing this.
Offer to bring in trash cans for a neighbor…water plants for those who are vacation… pick flowers and surprise someone randomly..take food to an animal shelter or offer to hold baby kitties that need some love….there are a ton of things.
When it gets down to it…none of this will work unless your children see you or you and your spouse doing it first (Depending on your situation). Pack up the clothes you don’t need or wear any more…let the kids see you do it and take them to a women’s shelter. Talk to your kids in simple, adult words about what you’re doing…and why. Kids are smart and so amazing at taking in the truth….as you see fit. Those kinds of things work better than anything.
And like I said to my friend, you don’t need to be a ‘church person’ to show compassion for others and teach your kids how to be selfless and thoughtful. But it’s just that…we have to teach them. Even if you and you and you are not church people, I am truly inspired by this bible verse:
“Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?” James 2:15-16
We all see the needs around us…and if we wish them well without doing something, what good is it!?
I am so glad she asked me this question.