Children who volunteer get so much more than they give

I’ve always been big into community service. I grew up as a Girl Scout, where service was stressed and needed to earn those coveted badges that adorned our uniforms. I went to church, where youth groups did missionary work and volunteered at the local Food Bank. I joined a sorority in college and in between attending parties and chasing frat guys, we even managed to work in our community.

So when I had my own children, it was the natural progression of things to take them out into the community, where they could serve. I remember a Christmas in which we each exchanged one present and then spent the day serving meals to the homeless. I remember taking my kids to work in food pantries, toy drives, and shelters. Those memories are priceless to me, because I know how much my kids gained from participating:

1. Kids learn that their world is very small, that they really are just fleas in the Grand Canyon. How they live and what they experience is minute compared to what the world is dealing with on a daily basis.

2. Children see that everyone does not live like them. Since most of us live in communities with people of the same socioeconomic background, it’s easy for our kids to grow up thinking that everyone’s life is alike. They need to see that many, many kids don’t have what they have and, in fact, can’t imagine living like they do.

3. Gratitude, which is incredibly important in life, grows. Kids suddenly became grateful that they eat heartily every day, that the Christmas tree shadows a huge pile of gifts, and that their closets are filled with clothes.

4. Kids develop a sense of satisfaction from giving to other people. They find out just how good it feels to sacrifice for someone else’s benefit. You know they’re growing and maturing when they begin to put others before themselves.

Did you volunteer as a kid and do you volunteer now? What have been the greatest rewards you’ve experienced?

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