Saturday, February 8, 2014

Teaching Little Hands to Help: A Family Tradition Worth Passing On

14 Days of Loving-Kindness: Days 7 + 8: Reaching Out to Someone Who is Hungry or Homeless and Sending Love to Parents/Grandparents 

How do we teach young children to serve? Why is teaching little hands to help important? Can little ones really help others? When can they start giving to others? Embarking on this challenge, I found myself revisiting these questions, and they've resurfaced as I've shared this project with others and engaged in discussions with others about service and kids. Of course, these questions have lots of answers. Today I share just a few answers...

First, let me apologize for combining two posts and being a little behind with the challenge share. Yesterday morning I should have started the day off with a post about how we serve those who are homeless or hungry, but the stomach bug that overtook the boys earlier in the week hit me Thursday night. I've finally recovered and find myself glad, actually, that I have the opportunity to combine my share about loving-kindness toward those who are homeless or hungry with showing loving-kindness toward the grandparents. 

Combining the two makes perfect sense because I realize that an important gift of loving-kindness I can give to my parents is my gratitude as this combo motivated me to reflect on why service with my children is so important to me. 

Serving with my children is a family tradition. 

I grew up seeing my parents not only model lives engaged in helping others -- through their vocations (teacher then hearing healthcare specialist and minister), but also in making serving others part of our Christmas traditions by giving gifts to those in need, always opening our homes to friends that might be spending Christmas alone, serving food and so much more that we did as a family all year long. 

What a wonderful family tradition for me to pass on to my children -- the tradition of modeling service and of raising children who understand the value of helping others  -- and who learn to do so with compassion as they learn to honor the humanity of those we help. 

To send loving-kindness to someone who is helpless or hungry yesterday, we delivered food to a homeless man who lives in our community, but what we also do every time we see him is speak to him, treat him as a human being no different from anyone else. We teach our sons that this man is part of our community, not someone to fear or look down upon -- in fact the communal name given to him is "Papa John" and every time we have extra bagels, Wild Thing always thinks of Papa John. It makes me smile. 

From my own parents and my sons, I've learned that children are never too young to give and always have something to give. When Wild Thing was not even 1, he instinctively touched the hand of an elderly woman saying hello to him at a restaurant, a touch she said would last her a week at the nursing home. At just 2, he helped pick up trash at a community Thanksgiving Dinner, and now at 2, I've watched in amazement as Caterpillar (my introvert) has gone up to a child he doesn't know at our coffee shop and given him one of his toys because that child didn't have a toy. 

Thank you Mom and Dad for teaching me that raising my children to love and honor others is just as important as teaching them to read, write and all the rest. Thank you, Joan, for your generosity and love for my sons and for the way you've also demonstrated service in your life, particularly through your military service. 

Today, we'll also be sending my Mom, Dad and "MyJo" (the loving name my sons have given my dad's wife) cards that the boys have made for them -- oh and Wild Thing also thinks we need to get G'Ma a toothbrush (no idea why!).  

How and why do you teach your children to serve or help others? Is this part of your family tradition? 

You might also like:
Homemade Bath Salts for G'Ma
We Give: Spare Change for Hunger
Very Fun Food Drive!


  1. Discovered you through JustOneMommy's Saturday share. Glad I did. I was just thinking on the way home the other day how I would really like to give more to others. I'm a teacher so I feel that at times just in choosing that profession I give myself in some ways. Social Media I feel makes us more aware than ever of others struggles and I always wish I could do something but never do. Sadly when I first think of giving to others I think "well, what money do I have to donate." But as you mentioned there are so many other ways to give. As my girls are getting older I really want to work on giving more of my time towards helping those less fortunate. It looks like you are a great source to learn of ways to to that. I am also in the process of working on a writing project in which i hope to use a portion of sales for donating to children's charities that are close to my heart. I'm looking forward to what else I can learn from you. Thanks for sharing.
    Angela @ Time with A & N

  2. What a beautiful tradition to pass onto to your children! So often we mistakenly think we have to do something "big" to give back, to help others. But those small acts of kindness, giving a bagel, waving hello and acknowledging someone who might otherwise be overlooked... Those really are huge.

    Thanks for sharing!