5 EASY WAYS TO MOVE FROM RESOLUTIONS TO ACTIONS
If creating a tradition of family service is a New Year's resolution for you, we can help you get started. Volunteering and practicing kindness with your family can be powerful ways to teach your children compassion, tolerance and community responsibility. It gives you the chance to express your values, have important conversations about "doing for others," and improve your community by helping those in need.
Happy 2014 from everyone at DGT!
-Jenny Friedman, Executive Director
GIVING BACK AS A STANDARD PROCEDURE
Make a Difference.....
Look at your calendar. You'll see soccer games and piano lessons, but rarely a reminder about "giving back." It's something we almost never schedule. But if you believe that exercising your children's empathy muscle is just as critical as exercising their brain and body, maybe it's time. Below are five effective strategies for making compassion and service a priority. (For more on why this is so important, click here.)
1. Schedule a monthly "Doing Good Together" time. Set aside one evening or weekend morning each month to do a service project. Pick from the dozens of simple project ideas at our Big-Hearted Families website, many of which can be done at your kitchen table.
2. Focus on one project that's woven into your everyday routine.
Adopt a food shelf, homeless shelter, humane society or nursing home in your community. One month you can organize a collection (diapers, canned goods, toys). Another time you can host a fundraiser or make some needed items (pet toys, blankets, sandwiches). Maybe you'll volunteer on-site by serving a meal or stocking shelves. Call to gauge the organization's needs. Also start reading about their issues (hunger, homelessness, etc.), visit their website and tour the facility.
Create a greeting card "station" in your home (including blank cards, markers, decorating supplies) so you can make cards during family downtime. Thank your mail carrier or garbage collector, send best wishes to kids with life-threatening illnesses, write notes to our troops, or send cheer to friends or family members.
Commit to keeping your community clean. Each time you visit the park or walk in your neighborhood, take a bag along to pick up trash. Soon it will feel odd to walk outside without stopping to pick up litter.
"Adopt" an elderly neighbor or local family in need. Offer to help out (babysitting, chores), deliver cookies or homemade soup, or just visit.
3. Join the Big-Hearted Families Book Club. For wholly unexpected projects packed with long-lasting meaning, consider our popular book club. Each monthly installment includes the essentials to create a compassion-filled family night: a kindness-themed book, a project idea, an original recipe to make together, and reflection questions to stimulate conversation. You can subscribe for one month, three months or a year. You'll also be supporting the work of Doing Good Together.
4. Give an organization one day a month. The group you choose will depend on your family's interests and the ages of your children. Some of our favorites include doing a Meals on Wheels route, mentoring a child, cooking a meal at a shelter, visiting a nursing home, or sponsoring a family through the Box Project or Family-to-Family. To find these opportunities in your community, visit the "Go Local" page on our Big-Hearted Families website.
5. Add a new kindness component to family traditions. On your child's birthday create a no-sew fleece blanket to donate to the hospital where he or she was born or put together a birthday bag for a local food shelf. On Valentine's Day make cards for your local firehouse. On Halloween collect money for UNICEF or donate candy to the troops. On May 1, make May Day baskets for neighbors. For more, check out the holiday-themed ideas in our archived newsletters.
CAUSE AND EFFECT OF SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY
Talk About It.....
Have a family meeting to talk about why "giving back" is everyone's responsibility. Then discuss the best way to make it happen for you. Here are questions to jump-start your conversation:
Why do you think it's important to spend some of our time giving back to the community?
How do you think people feel when you do something kind for them? How do you feel when you've done something kind?
What kinds of issues and causes do you care about most? What can we do to help with that cause?
If we were to do a service project on Martin Luther King Day this year, what project would you choose? (For younger children, mention several possibilities and have them choose the one they prefer.)
Learn About It.....
If your family needs some inspiration for getting started, read these two books together.
Kiki's Hats by Warren Hanson. Ages 4 and up. An uplifting story about how love and kindness can touch the world. Kids are inspiredto start right now, sharing their own talents in whatever way they can.
Make a Difference 101 by Sande Hart. Ages 10 and up. This comprehensive workbook is a step-by-step guide to help kids (and adults) figure out how to use their interests to make a difference in the world. Available in print or as an e-book.
"Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world."
- Harriet Tubman, abolitionist and humanitarian