Sarah: Beyond Sandy- 5 Steps to a Service-Focused Family
The devastation of Hurricane Sandy has brought donations and goodwill from people from all over the country to the New York and New Jersey areas. In these large-scale tragedies, Americans do a great job of jumping to work. It is heartwarming to see so much effort going toward the immediate needs of those who were displaced from their homes.
But once the media coverage stops, once the PTA moms have sent the last of the “gently used” coats, it will be easy for us to slide back into our daily routines. How can we instill a heart for the less fortunate in our children in an impactful way?
1. Get Informed. According to World Vision, of the 25 richest industrialized nations, the United States has the highest childhood poverty rate second only to Mexico. 46.2 million people live in poverty in the U.S. – a number equal to the entire population of Canada. An interest in service may quickly become an outright passion simply by looking at the numbers.
2. Find Opportunities. Whether through friends, businesses, churches or other organizations, local opportunities abound. It’s amazing how much you discover simply by asking around. Find out who to talk to, which email lists to get on, and which Facebook pages to like. The national organizations usually get the most press. If you come across one that you like, contact them about projects you’re interested in. Even if they are not doing anything in your area they may be able to refer you to a partner organization or similar program that is.
TIP: Although holiday season volunteering can be a great starting place, many organizations will reserve these slots for the volunteers who put time in over the course of the year. Find a project or organization you are passionate about and try to commit to volunteer at least once a month.
3. Lead by Example. Have a good attitude! Remember, you are helping to make a difference that matters. Our children notice when we complain under our breath about a task at hand. A positive attitude toward service will help them view it as a positive way to spend time. They will be more likely to give back to their community (and beyond) as adults if they see that behavior modeled in the home.
4. Mindful Conversation. Marketing experts know an audience needs to
hear their ad over and over again (and usually in different ways) before the audience starts to behave the way they hope it will. Our kids need to hear about the people that need their support, service, and comfort, and they need to hear it over and over and over again!
5. Face to Face Interaction. Never underestimate the power of interacting with others. It’s great for the kids to sort the clothes we’re about to drop off at the Salvation Army, but an afternoon spent helping out at a homeless shelter is a better way to show them the less fortunate are not just a concept; they are actual human lives deserving of dignity. Seek out opportunities that put your family in front of the people you’re serving, even if it can’t be every time.
Have any tips for service-focused families? Have an inspiring story? Let’s hear it!