It's always been important to me that my children grow up volunteering, that they learn to help others as they are learning to help themselves, and that community service becomes a fundamental, routine part of their lives from a very young age. I found a wonderful organization about a year ago -- Little Helping Hands -- that facilitates family volunteering by creating and organizing volunteer activities for caregivers and children. I've found myself so inspired by the organization and the founder/executive director that I volunteer some time to help write grant applications. Although I often do that unpaid work late at night after long days of paid work and caring for young children, I love doing it. I've been surprised how energizing and fulfilling that work has been for me.
The best part of my experience with Little Helping Hands is the volunteering we've done together as a family. Each activity prompts relevant, important conversations and provides valuable context for so much of what a four-year-old notices and begins to process. While helping others and serving our community, we discuss how and why people need help, ways to help others and our community, and why we should help. These subjects often prompt very difficult questions, but the conversations are important and necessary.
My daughter and I have packaged rice and beans for people who receive food assistance. We have cooked for people whose children are sick and hospitalized. National Family Volunteer Day was a chance for daddy and daughter to volunteer together. They went to a local organic farm, where they collected eggs and harvested butternut squash seeds, which will be dried and used next year to plant a new squash crop. I'm not sure who had more fun, the four-year-old or her dad.
Next Saturday we've got a date to help assemble grooming kits for children in need. We've been talking a lot about the spirit of Christmas, and I'm thrilled that we found time to volunteer a week before Santa comes.
Put National Family Volunteer Day on your calendars -- November 19, 2011 -- and plan to join us next year as we get out and help somebody!