Tomorrow, Saturday October 22, is national Make a Difference Day! Sponsored by Tegna, The Arby’s Foundation, and Points of Light, Make a Difference Day encourages Americans of all ages to find a way to serve their community. They provide a project finder to connect volunteers with needs, and awards to honor people and projects that are making a difference. To find projects near you, visit their website.
Why is practicing regular volunteer work as a family important?
1. Volunteering encourages gratitude and a realistic view of wants vs. needs: All the moms said “amen,” right? It’s hard to teach gratitude to our kids. But “you should be thankful,” and “when I was your age,” don’t speak as loudly as hands-on, face-to-face experience.
2. Volunteering teaches us that we’re not so different after all: Living a sheltered life makes it easy to think that real hunger doesn’t happen in America, or that all poverty is the result of bad personal decisions. But working with people in need, right in our own community, reveals the reality that most people in need are hard-working and want opportunity, not a handout. They have the same hopes, dreams, and concerns for their kids that we all do. You might make some new friends, too.
3. Volunteering makes us sensitive to the needs of others: Kids don’t understand why the elderly and infirm are slow. They don’t get it that others can’t afford to have the things that they have or go to the things they can go to. Volunteering is a great opportunity to talk about how much we have to be thankful for, as well as ways that we can be sensitive, considerate, and make life easier for others.
4. Regular volunteering from a young age teaches kids that this is just what we do: It’s just like dressing up for church. Someone warned me about this when J was a baby, and we stuck with it. Every Sunday we dressed him up for church, and he didn’t question it until he was practically a teenager (and by then no one under 60 was dressing up at church…). At the same time, I had friends tell me that if they tried to “make” their kids get dressed up they would have a mutiny on their hands. J didn’t argue because that was the normal he knew. The same is true of community service. Start the kids as young as you can and they will understand that this is just what we do as Christians and members of our community.
Actions speak louder than words. Model a life of service and include the kids as much as possible. If you’re looking for ideas, search this site for “service projects.” I’ve written blog posts about a number of possibilities. If you have ideas about service projects that families can do together, leave a comment. We’re always looking for more ideas!