Yes, getting your family involved in volunteering can bring you all closer and model a less "me"-focused approach to life. Giving back to your community doesn't need to be difficult or time-consuming, however. By incorporating simple rituals into your everyday activities, you can weave service into your daily life. Here are some easy-to-implement ideas.
Jenny Friedman, Executive Director
||Service of the Day
Make a Difference... Clean up your community. Every time you take your children to the park, a wilderness area or on a walk, take along a bag and have them each pick up five pieces of litter. This simple cleanup will only take minutes, but will get your children in the habit of thinking about their environment and their responsibility to the community.
Buy extra items to donate each time you go shopping. During your weekly trip to the grocery store, together pick out an extra nonperishable food or personal hygiene item for a local food pantry. Collect items for a few months, then go drop off your donations.
Cook or bake a little bit more. Whenever you cook or bake together, prepare double the amount of dinner or dessert and deliver the extra food to a sick or elderly neighbor, your local nursing home, a nearby shelter, or a friend who needs some cheering up.
Draw a little more, too. Each time your children take out the art supplies, encourage them to draw an extra picture or two for elderly folks. Or have a basket set aside to collect any drawings you're willing to donate. Then simply mail them to Color a Smile, an organization that sends kids' artwork to nursing homes and Meals on Wheels programs. (The address is on their website.)
No time? These service projects can be done on your own time and can become part of what you're already doing as a family.
Photo: Color a Smile
||The Ordinary Mary Effect
Talk About It... How do you feel when you do something nice for someone else? What are small acts of kindness people have done for you? How did that feel?
Why do you think it's so hard for families to make a habit of thinking about other people's needs?
Do you think giving back should be a part of everyone's life? Why or why not?
What other, simple ideas do you have for how we can help out in our community?
Weaving service into your daily routine shows children that giving back is a way of life - not a "special occasion" activity. Talk together about why your family chooses to make service to others a priority.
Learn About It...
Ordinary Mary's Extraordinary Deed by Emily Pearson (Layton, Utah: Gibbs Smith, 2002) is a wonderful story about a little girl who starts a chain of giving.
Photo: Ordinary Mary by Emily Pearson
"It is only when you hitch your wagon to something larger than yourself that you realize your true potential."
Barack Obama. President of the United States
||News From DGT
Jenny Friedman, Executive Director of Doing Good Together, has co-authored a new book with Jolene Roehlkepartain called Doing Good Together: 101 Easy, Meaningful Service Projects for Families, Schools and Communities. It's perfect for schools, faith groups and other organizations that are looking for simple family service projects. You can pre-order it at Free Spirit Publishing or Amazon.
Photo: Doing Good Together: 101 Easy, Meaningful Service Projects for Families, Schools, and Communities