Infants are born aware only of their own needs. As children grow, it becomes possible for them to shift the focus from themselves and begin to recognize the needs of others. The character trait of availability means making our own schedules and priorities secondary to the wishes of those we serve.
Each month I have the privilege of sharing the stories of MetroFamily’s Spotlight on Character winners. They are exceptional young people who make a habit of doing the right thing. I’ve been particularly impressed with several children who have created opportunities to give out of occasions where they would normally receive. Whether it’s sharing homemade cookies on Halloween or asking birthday guests to make charitable contributions instead of bringing gifts, these children have learned to put others ahead of themselves.
Availability is a building block upon which other positive traits grow. Before we can display generosity or compassion, we have to first stand ready to contribute our strengths or talents to those who need them.
This craft project will remind children of the “I Will” statements below. Trace your child’s hand on a piece of construction paper. Write (or help your child write) the five statements—one on each finger. Decorate the hand with crayons or markers and cut out. Hang the hand in a prominent location to serve as a reminder to lend a hand to others who might need it.
Availability can be an abstract concept that’s difficult for young children to grasp. To help them understand the idea, praise children’s willingness to assist, not just the action itself.
I will statements
- find a way to help, not a way to hide.
- put others ahead of myself.
- be glad for the chance to serve.
- check with the right person before I make commitments.
- be ready when I’m called.
At a statuesque 19 feet, giraffes are the tallest mammals on earth. Their height and keen eyesight allow them to see for more than a mile. While long necks make giraffes tower over other animals on the African savanna, they also make them vulnerable to attack, especially when bending over to drink water. This may be one reason giraffes live in herds. When the herd travels to the watering hole, at least one giraffe waits to drink. That giraffe stands tall, making himself available to watch for danger. When the other giraffes have finished drinking, the guardian takes a turn while the others stay on the lookout for predators.
Read about Availability
- Carlo and the Really Nice Librarian by Jessica Spanyol is a book for young children featuring a giraffe who visits a library. Librarians display availability on a daily basis by being ready to assist people who need help.
- The Lost Art of Listening by Michael Nichols reminds us that to really hear what another person is saying, we have to shift our focus from ourselves to the person who is speaking.
Spotlight on Character Award Winners
Cheyenne Johnson recently displayed the character traits of attentiveness (giving a task undivided attention) and determination (accomplishing the right goals at the right time) when her class took a comprehensive exam. She faithfully studied with her dad every night before the exam. Cheyenne’s teacher reported that Cheyenne focused and remained on task, agonizing over numerous answers. Cheyenne was the last student to finish the test, but she earned the third-highest grade in her class. Concentrating on an assignment can sometimes be a challenge for Cheyenne, but she recognized that this test was important and gave it her full attention. Cheyenne’s parents, Scott and Brandy Ratcliff, are very proud of how well Cheyenne did and her commitment to doing a good job. Cheyenne is in the second grade at Northern Hills Elementary School in Edmond.
Adessa Miller makes it a habit to be enthusiastic in everything she does. Whether she is asked to do chores, play
with her brother, monitor her niece, or help at school, Adessa approaches everything with a positive and cheerful attitude.
"Adessa's demonstration of such character goes a long way, especially since her younger brother observes her so closely," said Twyla Miller, Adessa's mom.
Adessa is in the sixth grade at Soldier Creek Elementary in Midwest City.
The Character First! Project is inspired by the work of the Character Training Institute, a non-profit organization based in Oklahoma City. Character First! information is used by permission. Call 405-815-0001 for Character First! resources or visit CharacterFirst.com.
Gayleen Rabakukk is a freelance writer who spends her time in Edmond keeping up with her teenage and preschool daughters. She holds a BA in journalism from the University of Central Oklahoma and is a regular contributor to MetroFamily Magazine.