November brings up themes of gratitude and giving back. I always think of turkeys and cornucopias this time of year, images that reflect plenty. Being thankful and not taking for granted all that we enjoy each day are qualities best learned through life experience. The plenty that my children have been fortunate to know in their short lives isn't the case for every family. It's important to me that Sam and Isaac learn all that volunteer service can teach them. Now seems like the perfect time of year to find a way to help in our community.
My sons are 7 and 2: I don't expect that they'll understand the full volunteering experience quite yet. However, their ages shouldn't be a reason not to volunteer. Visiting the elderly in a local care facility is our go-to community activity. Just talking with the residents is a win-win experience. This year, my toddler is old enough that we could ring a Red Kettle bell for the Salvation Army or buy a gift together to place under a local Angel Tree. Taking Sam to sort non-perishables at the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma or encouraging him to write holiday cards to soldiers stationed far away are activities that I hope he'll remember.
Each year, as we sit around the dining room table to share what we're thankful for, I know Sam and Isaac will better understand the what and the why. Continuing in that spirit of gratitude throughout the year is ideal too; Sam is at a new school and I chose it because of their title commitment to service learning. I remember completing similar service activities as a child and later, a lifetime ago, it seems, before I had children, volunteering as a Spanish language medical translator both here and in other countries. I won an award in college in recognition of that service but a ribbon on graduation day isn't what I remember most. I do recall the names and faces of people I met. No matter where community service takes place, I know volunteers agree that we do get so much more than we give.
Volunteering is a formative way kids can make a difference and it shapes their worldview to include work ethic, gratitude, compassion, all the qualities that money can't buy. I plan to give Sam and Isaac the opportunity to find out how to help others.
If you're looking for a place to volunteer with your children this holiday season, see MetroFamily's list of six organizations that could use a hand here. Our list of volunteer opportunities in the metro is also listed here for a broader variety to help you find a good fit.
How do you volunteer with your kids? Let us know by writing to firstname.lastname@example.org.