The Spirit of Service-

One week ago I squeezed my oldest son (15), good bye as he flew off to Africa for a service trip. He is building a school house with 15 other boys from his school for the local community in Ghana! We received a note yesterday saying that the group had spent the last few days building bricks out of concrete, sand and water and laying them with mortar. WHAT? I laughed out loud trying to picture the same kid who we can’t get to lift his dirty plate from the counter laying bricks! Many have asked me “how do you get your child to have the desire to serve others”?
When Jackson was in the third grade I packed him up along with my dear friend Dawn and her son and we went off to clean up neighborhoods in New Orleans after Katrina. We took several subsequent trips and he became invested in the process and the community. When asked he often states those as the best trips of his life. He witnessed devastation and tragic loss at a young age but also the camaraderie that is built with a community in need, the coming together of different groups with open hearts and common goals. He also got to witness life outside his own community so he came to understand the big world out there with many different types of people and varied issues.
A couple of weeks ago I took my youngest sons to go visit their grandparents in the PACNW, I left them there while I was working in the area. When I returned my 12 year old commented, “Wow, Grandma and Grandpa are a big deal here in their town,” I asked him, “what makes you say that?” He replied, “Well, they have a highway named after them and everyone knows them down at the community center.” Again, I chuckled as the highway (in question) is a small sign in front of their house where they get referenced because of picking up trash for 2 miles for the last 10 years, and the community center is a small town church center where my Dad mows the lawn each week and delivers bread to the impoverished from the restaurant donations nearby.
As I pondered his young perspective it brought me back to the original question of “how do we get our children to engage in the spirit of service?” As I reflect on my own parents lives, I realize they have always modeled outreach, whether mowing someone’s lawn, serving at the parish breakfast, making quilts for fundraisers, or picking up trash in their community. There was never much fanfare around these projects its just what they did and it was part of life as we knew it. As a child even as teenager I don’t remember any longing to get out there and pick up trash with them and I whined and complained if I had to do dishes at a church breakfast. However, something definitely clicked into place as I grew older and I found my self thinking this is just what we do and it is part of get off your rear end Michelle and do something! I don’t have a cut and dry answer for how to get our children engaged in helping others, but I do think modeling is key.(passing it down like a legacy) Just like brushing one’s teeth, if we as parents model and remind why this behavior is important each day it becomes second nature (part of life). No one has to go to Africa to help there are plenty of people in need and plenty of trash in our own back yards! It is the spirit of service that seems important the sharing of ourselves with others and it is truly amazing what that spirit can do for others and for our children!
PS – My friend Dawn’s son chose the Africa Service trip as well (this would be his second service trip this year).. just a little tip his MOM models service each day!

Posted in Blog on July 15th, 2013.

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