Hello SOTGC community,
“Children must be taught how to think, not what to think” Margaret Mead
This time of year we are reminded of the many charities raising money for benefit of others. Nothing is more heart-wrenching for me than to learn about the number of families that will not be able to celebrate the upcoming holiday season. Tonight I was reminded once again as I walked into my fitness club and saw a tree filled with hundreds of paper ornaments requesting specific items to be given to local families in need for the holiday.
While reading the items listed on each ornament, I overheard a conversation about why they would not ever participate in these types of charities. The biggest reason they sighted was the lack of appreciation shown by the children receiving the gift. My immediate thought was to side with them, yet, I am a mother of three and reality is, even in the best of circumstances, children forget their manners, just like they forget to brush their teeth or do their homework.
I continued with my task at hand, yet I could not remove their conversation from my mind. It was an honest comment based on their personal experience that has now created a negative perception for these types of activities. However, I challenge this thinking one step further…what if that child just simply did not know how to respond. Or, what if they felt uncomfortable, embarrassed for (in their mind) being labeled ‘needy’? What if this child has never been taught basic manners?
Perceptions are hard to change, in some situations, impossible! So, what is the solution? What if, instead of just filling the need you took this need one step further and used it as a learning opportunity as to why filling the need is important? Not only that, but what if you got the younger generations involved as a giver and a receiver? The giver of the gift (time/talent/treasure) to a person in need and the receiver of knowledge of why their actions benefited another person, the community and themselves. There are endless possibilities on good things coming of this, but how would this work?
There is an approach that is taking hold quickly in many Bright Futures USA affiliate communities, called Service Learning. Many of you may have already heard of this, as other organizations are also leveraging this approach within their volunteer activities.
Service learning is a strategy that leverages teaching and learning to build awareness with community service. “You are able to give instruction while encouraging self-reflection. This will reinforce their learning through their volunteer activities, which will also help remove barriers and strengthen communities.”
There are two techniques you can start them to help your community, school, youth group or civic groups get started:
- Hand Up Not A Hand Out – When a child is a recipient of a ‘need’, use this opportunity to teach them about giving back to another person. Talk to them about how it felt when they received their ‘gift’. Have them reflect on it and take time to help them understand their feelings. Use this time to also talk about other children in need and ask how they might like to create the same feeling in another person. Encourage them to give back to another as soon as they can. Remind them they are not alone in the process and you or another person will help them accomplish this goal. Once it is completed, talk about how it felt helping another person. It might be helpful for them to write it down so they can share it with another or go back to it later.
- We Are All The Same – It is important that children that live in less privileged lifestyles do not different because they have ‘needs’. We all have needs that require special attention, some bigger than others. For that, we are no different, nor are our children. The sooner children start understanding the importance of giving to a person in need and why it is important to help, the quicker they develop informed opinions versus inaccurate perceptions/labels. We should take time to remind our younger generation that no one asked for the life they received, but we should make the most of it every day. This will allow labels to be removed while bringing our children closer to parity.
It is never too soon to start teaching our children the importance of giving back to others. As they continue to learn about the various needs within their community and start taking action, the more connected they will feel. As I mentioned in a previous post, children that volunteer and stay involved in their community have higher test score, stay engaged in school, graduate and become long term productive members of their community and in their careers.
The holiday season is just starting and there are hundreds of thousands of needs around the country. The opportunities are endless to help a person in needs, but the lifelong benefits of teaching our children now WHY it is important to share their gifts is endless. Everyone has a gift to share, whether it is time, talent or treasure, it is a gift. If this resonated with you, please take time to share with others! Please share this article with others…Tweet, Pin or share on LinkedIn or Facebook.