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I am so tired of picking up the same toys in my house day after day. Now, I realize that my children are young (5, 3 and 1) but picking up their toys after a day of playing is not too much to expect of them. We often make it a family affair to clean up the toy room (otherwise known as the-bomb-hit-it room). Honestly though, how many times can you pick up the same toys without getting a little disgusted with it all. You know that Febreeze ad where the lady picks up all the toys and then sprays the carpet? She turns her back on the toy box for just a moment and when she turns back around all the toys have jumped back out and are laying on the ground. Yep, that is how I feel.
So, I decided to give the older two kids 15 minutes to clean up their toys without help figuring that is enough time for them to make a solid start, if not finish, the clean up. Let me tell you that for 5 night straight not one toy was picked up. On the sixth night I pulled out a trash bag and started loading it up. My 5 year old asked, “Mama, what are you doing?” My response was, “Since you two don’t seem to care about these toys we will give them away to someone who will.” Thus we started teaching our children about community service.
I have taken more bags of toys to Goodwill and to Battered Women’s shelters than I can shake a stick at. I realized 3 things in my battle with my children. 1) They have way too much stuff 2) They don’t appreciate what they have because they have too much stuff and 3) They didn’t miss is one bit once it was gone.
Our family is now committed to 2 community fundraisers every year. In November we partner with Toys for Tots (http://www.ToysforTots.org) and start a toy drive that lasts 6 weeks. My children go with me to a local store where they pick out a toy that they would LOVE to have and they make the donation into the box. They would love to have it for the first day it is in our house and then it would be abandoned. So, instead we lovingly give it to someone who will cherish it. My 5 year old gets it and enjoys knowing that she is going to give a child a happier Christmas. My 3 year old struggles with giving the toy away but we explain why and he gives it up. I know that as he gets older he will have so much more understanding.
In the spring we work with our local food bank to raise food for them. That is typically a slow time of year for the food banks but they still need to serve the same amount of people. So, once again we call on the people of our community, the businesses that are affiliated with the website, my children’s preschool as well as family and friends. Buying an extra $20 of food when I go grocery shopping will make a huge difference for the food bank. This is the challenge that we send out to others in the community as well.
Getting involved in my community makes me feel good. I want my children to be proud of where they live and serve the community because it serves them everyday. The stronger our community, the stronger our children will be. The stronger our children, the stronger our families will be. Make time as a family to serve your community!!
If families new how many opportunities there were for them to get involved in helping their community I know that they would be more inclined to do it. There are organizations that need volunteers but there are also things that we can do all on our own. Some community service opportunities will not be ideal for toddlers and preschoolers but there are things that they can get involved with as well.
1. Adopt-a-Grandparent – Many Senior care facilities have programs in place for families to come to the center to visit with the residents. Nothing will put a smile on the face of a senior than seeing a child. You would need to do nothing more than show up for a visit as often as you can. If your child’s grandparents don’t live close this would give them a surrogate grandparent.
2. Help in a Homeless Shelter – There are so many people in need of a place to live and food to eat. By allowing our children to participate in serving these people we can teach them compassion and love. Most children live in a “bubble” not realizing that many people are far less fortunate than they are. They will soon see that they are blessed and by their service they are easing someone else’s load and hopefully brightening their day.
3. Exercise for a Cause – I have seen a huge increase in our community for walks and runs and swims for all kinds of causes. Many of them are cancer related but we have also had them for hunger, the protection of battered women, child abuse and pet safety. Find a cause that you believe in, so and get some sponsors and then get to it. You will feel great for exercising and spending time as a family. (If you have little ones, pack them up in the stroller.) You will feel great because your family is making a difference in people’s lives.
4. Military Care Packages – As a family you can put together a care package and write letters to men and women serving overseas for your country. You can connect with organization like to make and send your own packages. Either way getting our kids involved in supporting the troops is so important. This country is free because there are people who leave their families to fight for it. Thank them!!
5. Christmas Boxes – There is a wonderful program called Operation Christmas Child (samaritanspurse.org) that collect shoe boxes to send to needy children all over the world. Many churches get involved in this effort but you can also do it with a business or play group or even on a personal level. I let my children pack up a box each (with recommended items) and we had a great time. They wanted to know why we were doing this and where the boxes would be going. We looked at a map and talked about how much the children in those countries would love the things in the boxes. It was a special time for me and my 5 and 3 year olds.
OUR FAMILY SERVICE:
1. Clean up the Park – When we get to whatever local park we are going to we don our latex gloves and pull out a little trash bag. We spend the first 15 minutes we are at the park picking up trash. It isn’t much but we use the park and therefore we should be taking care of it.
2. Make a Phone Call – I don’t have the T.V. on a lot in my house but if I catch a Tele-thon happening for a cause I believe in then I will donate $10 in each of my children’s names. So many people get caught up in the amount that they feel they should donate in order to make a difference. You make a difference just by picking up the phone at all. When my children get older I will have them make the phone call themselves. Maybe they will even want to donate from their own money.
3. Have a Lemonade Stand – What child has not asked to have their own lemonade stand? Let your kids do one but talk about donating some or all of the money to a charity. Make up a couple signs with the price but include “all money raised will be donated to charity”. They may find they have a busy lemonade stand J.
4. St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital – I am so grateful that I have been blessed with 3 healthy children. There are so many people who have had to deal with very serious and life threatening diseases with their kids. I can not imagine what those families go through. Every so often I get a letter in the mail from St. Jude’s Hospital. In with the letter are a bunch of address labels with my name and address on them. The letter asks for a donation (of any amount) for the research that the hospital does. Once again, it is not about the amount but the fact that anything you can give helps. While you will write the check let your children write a letter or color a picture for a patient. Encourage them to be involved in the process and who knows maybe they will establish a pen pal that they can keep in touch with.
5. Help at a local Animal Shelter – Most kids love animals and allowing them the chance to be a whole bunch of them as often as possible is often a dream come true J The animals will be grateful for the love and attention!! At a shelter a child can learn about the different animals and how to care for them. So volunteering also becomes about teaching our children life skills.
It seems like with each passing day our lives get busier and busier. We need to take time out to spend quality time with our families. We want to make our community a great place to live and we want to make our family a strong and supportive unit to live with.
I hope that my children will always be compassionate and caring and generous and thoughtful. I want them to know that their individual actions make a difference and they should strive to make a positive difference. I believe that my role as a parent is to help them achieve those traits. By teaching them about community service, being an example for them and providing them with opportunities to be involved I hope that they will learn to be (humbly) proud of their contributions as well as be grateful for their family and their “stuff”. I just hope it won’t still be all over the floor!
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write by Farrer