Building Community

A Big-Hearted Neighborhood

may day 004 Summer is a great opportunity to build neighborhood memories with a big hearted project or two.

We recently completed the first big-hearted project with our new neighbors. We tackled a small craft project, testing out one of the upcoming Big Hearted Families book club activities.

Big-Hearted Families' activities build great neighborhood relationships for the same reason they build strong families:

  • They give you and excuse to spend time together, for longer than it takes to set out the trash or pick up the mail.
  • They give you something bigger to talk about than the weather or real estate market.
  • Plus, these projects contribute - in ways great and small - to your community.

As new members of our community, volunteering together gives us a great opportunity to build deeper connections more quickly.

During this season of summer gatherings, here are a few simple activities that may bring your neighborhood together:

  1. Make Sandwiches: With minimal preparation and just an hour of time together, your neighborhood can stock local homeless shelters with hundreds of sandwiches for their residents. Put on some fun music, tackle our discussion questions, and fire up the grill or order a few pizzas to make an evening of it!
  2. Make Birdseed Cookies: Decorate your neighborhood with edible treats for your feathered friends! Host a neighborhood gathering and set up a birdseed cookie table as a fun ice breaker. Later you can swap stories about the creatures you've spied snacking on your treats.
  3. Adopt the Local Food Shelf: Has your family set up a food shelf donation station in  your home? For a simple, no-party-necessary option, let your neighbors know when you regularly drop of your goodies and welcome them to add to the collection. Offer gentle reminders just before each donation and let them know of any unique seasonal needs.

Test Subjects, Kindness, & the Scientific Process

This summer, we're a family of guinea pigs. Like you (I suspect), we are fans of curiosity, of science, and of teaching the art of independent thinking to our children.  Thanks to the wonderful university at our finger tips, each of the kids has participated in at least one study at the Institute of Child Development. I've talked to more than a few friends who have signed their kids up as well.

Our trip to campus was an outstanding field trip for the kids. Our participation in the studies gave the girls, especially Miss Second Grader, an opportunity to think about the research process. She even asked a few questions of the researchers we met.

Plus it gave us a great opportunity to talk about a unique new way to volunteer our time. As Little Miss Four said, "if they can study us and a lot of other kids, maybe they can help us all learn and grow really well."

Well put little one!

Here is a great link to get your kids started with sociological research.

If you participate in or conduct studies of your own, be sure to help your kids think through the potential impact of this sort of science on other children and families.

Caring & Kindness: Everyday Lessons

Habits of kindness make it so much easier to teach caring in between volunteer gigs.  And lets face it, even with the best of intentions that gap can sometimes get out of control. Establishing these habits of kindness is what Doing Good Together, and our soon-to-be launched website Big-Hearted Families are all about.

Maria Dismondy author of Spaghetti in a Hot Dog Bun and the Juice Box Bully hosts a character trait blog every month: Make a Difference Monthly. Bloggers from around the country link up their own ways to teach that character trait, creating a compendium of expertise on each topic.

This is my contribution, to that worthy effort. Pop over to Maria's site for the linked contributions. They are impressive in their quality, in their kindheartedness, and in their ability to inspire.

In the meantime, here are the three habits my family has adopted that make conversations about caring and kindness happen every day.

Who have you helped today? Who has helped you? Make time every day for this simple set of questions. Ask at family dinner or after bedtime stories. Be sure to offer your own answers. Even the youngest family members will learn to watch for the simple acts if kindness that make each day better, as both givers and receivers of help. In our family, we all watch for opportunities to help so we have an answer next time the question comes up!

Rubbish Race: I posted this year's ago, and it has since become a feature of every walk. I carry a plastic bag and a lonely garden glove everywhere I go, and the kids don't tolerate any bit of trash lingering in their path. We are stewards, caring for whatever patch of earth we happen to be occupying.

Happy Mail: Like Maria in her own "Caring" post, kind-hearted mail is one of our favorite ways to share kindness. Our letters make their way to nearby neighbors, far off family, and strangers in need of a pick me up thanks to Hugs and Hope.

Books: Like most families, we make time to read every day. Our latest favorite caring book is Miss Tizzy. Check it out!