Charity: goodwill toward or love of humanity
"It's not how much we give but how much love we put into giving." -Mother Teresa
"No one has ever become poor by giving." -Anne Frank
"When we give cheerfully and accept gratefully, everyone is blessed." -Maya Angelou
Those who are happiest are those who do the most for others." -Booker T. Washington
The old song goes, "Summertime, and the living is easy." That may hold true for your children, as they enjoy a few months of out-of-school fun and freedom. Unfortunately, the rest of the world never takes time off from its burdens and societal ills— and neither do you, the hurried parent struggling to find ways to fill up kids' summertime schedules!
That's why now is a perfect time to introduce charity and philanthropy into your child's life. Not only can volunteerism provide some much-needed structure to a child's vacation days, it can also teach them the sorts of values that aren't always included in a school's core curriculum: generosity, kindness, tolerance, compassion and selflessness.
Whiling away a summer at the pool or the mall is not going to jolt kids out of the consumerist, "gimme-gimme" mindset that permeates our society. And while a summer job or internship may certainly teach kids the importance of hard work, such endeavors often only address a child's immediate interest— be it saving up money for a car or earning a nice letter of recommendation for college applications. Adults must also expose children to worlds beyond their own, to show them how being a productive member of society means helping others as well as helping themselves.
Best of all— again, for both kids and their parents— learning about charity can truly be easy and fun, requiring minimum adult legwork and maximum enjoyment for young and old combined. There are philanthropic projects suitable for kids of all ages, backgrounds and abilities; children as young as 3 or 4 years old can do their part and understand the results of their generous actions.
Of course, some kids won't see the fun in philanthropy— at first. Here's where some creative parenting is required. One of the keys to introducing reluctant children to volunteerism is to give them some control over the situation. So, while you might insist that volunteering is a non-negotiable part of your child's summer to-do list, you can let him decide which project and which friend or snacks to bring along.
Here are some project ideas. All of them are easily adaptable to kids of all ages and groups of all sizes.
1.) Periodically go through your closets to root out clothes that you haven't worn in awhile, so these clothes can be given to the Salvation Army or Good Will for distribution to the needy. Encourage your children to do the same. Allow them to select which clothes or toys they wish to donate. The value of this activity is diminished greatly if you go through their closets for them without their presence. For maximum benefit, get your children involved in choosing the appropriate items. Take your children with you when you drop the items off at the charitable destination.
2.) Engage in a service-oriented project regularly. Rake the leaves of an elderly couple's yard. Bake cookies for a serviceman or servicewoman. Bake bread and deliver it to the homeless feeding station in your community.
3.) Give blood. Take your children with you so they see you as a model for giving. Talk to them about why you choose to donate blood and what you hope it will accomplish by doing so.
4.) Set up birthday parties as a time for giving to others. At your child's first school age birthday party, ask guests to bring a gift of a book (new or used) to be donated to a local charity. Talk to you son about the books he has and about children who have no books. Explain that one way to celebrate a birthday would be to give to those who have less. Involve the birthday boy in the decision of whether not to give the books to a woman's shelter, a doctor's office, or some other appropriate organization. When you deliver the books with your son, record it on camera.
5.) At regular intervals, buy dog or cat food and take it to the humane society. Allow your children to spend some time with the recipients of the gift.
6.) Build food baskets around the holidays and give to a needy family suggested by your church or school. Involve your children is selecting canned goods, fruit, and other treats to include. Decorate the gift package and deliver it together as a family.
7.) Create a charity jar to be used by the family when allowances are distributed. Invite children to share some of their allowance with others through donating to the jar. As the jar fills decide as a family where to contribute the contents. You may choose to save a whale, buy gloves for needy children, or contribute to a cancer charity among others. Read about various charities on the internet and share this information with your children to help them make an informed decision.
8.) Do things for the elderly that they have trouble doing for themselves. Pick up sticks in your neighbors yard after a big windstorm. Mow the grass for grandma. Wash grandpa's car. Clean their windows in the spring. Help them plant flowers.
9.) Get on a regular service schedule at your church or synagogue. Sign up for a time to mow the grass and trim the bushes. Take your turn ushering and allow your child to assist.
By implementing some of the ideas above or others like them, you will be teaching your children that charity is not reserved only for emergencies. You will be helping them appreciate that reaching out to others in need is a way of life. Remember, while you are giving to others, you are giving your children important messages that concern the spirit of giving.
A workplace team activity that contributes to the community can help encourage teamwork and make the team proud of its accomplishments. Some charitable activities that can be used are adopting a family during the Christmas holiday, helping a local soup kitchen collect food for Thanksgiving, collecting clothing for the needy, and delivering meals to elderly and bed-ridden people. Find ways for the entire group to get involved. For example, people who do not want to deliver meals to homes can help pack the meals instead.