Volunteering with your children

I can’t claim to be any expert in this, but we’ve been blessed over the past 16 months to be able to volunteer regularly as a family.

Have you looked into this?  When I first started to look for a way to volunteer with my kids, door after door opened, “Yes, we’d love to have you!” until I mentioned that I wanted to bring my children, “No, sorry, no one under age 16 may participate.”

And then a friend of ours invited us to work at the food pantry he coordinated in Denver.  It was a huge blessing to us– getting out of our comfort zone, speaking and hearing not just English but Spanish, making friends with people we wouldn’t meet in our neighborhood.  It took us a little while to find a rhythm, but I learned a lot about my kids (and myself) in those days.  J is happiest working with someone who wants to listen to his stories.  O wants a hard job that he can do ALL BY HIMSELF, thank you very much.  M mostly wants to love on the mouse-catching cat.  SweetP is happy to work for about an hour as long as she’s with me, and then she’s done.  Like really done.  (Wait, maybe I knew all that already.)  And it’s been fun watching the reactions of those with whom we work, transitioning from , “Why aren’t you in school?” to, “Wow, your kids work hard!”

Recently our food bank welcomed a team of volunteers who stay in the church and work there every day… great for them, but eliminating our role there, so we’ve been looking around again.  Happily, we’ve connected with the food bank in our own town and will soon say good-bye and thank you to our first volunteering home.

Several things have made this successful for us.  First, I have adjusted it according to our needs.  When kids are sick, or the week is just too crazy, we skip it.  When biweekly became too much, we went down to monthly.  Second, I remind myself frequently of our goals.  I want my kids to experience the joy of serving first-hand.  To that end, I let them experience it and try to keep my big mouth shut when I’m tempted to tell them what a joy it is.  Third, I make it a win-win situation.  They work cheerfully, we go for ice cream after.  They’re children and for now, the whole finding-joy-in-service-for-its-own-sake is a little esoteric.  So I stack the deck, as it were.

Have you volunteered with your kids?  What does it look like?  What makes it a richer experience?

2 thoughts on “Volunteering with your children

  1. Oh, I *want* to do this! I think we’re still a couple (few?) years out from this– at least- all of us, altogether, doing something, but I’m excited to move into this season as a family!


  2. Once a month we go downtown and feed the homeless at a park with a group of people (most, but not all, are all former or current members or the church we used to go to). Everyone brings a dish they made at home and we serve until we run out of food. The boys love it, and all the people we serve love seeing the kids. I wear Cora in the moby or mei tai and the boys help my mom hand out plates and forks. Rick usually holds Emmett after he gets bored to keep him from running into the street or something.

    Henry likes talking to all the people and feeling important as everyone thanks him for their plates and he says, “your welcome.” But I know he also loves that he gets to eat a hot dog or something else that someone else brought to feed people. I used to get all worked up over it (a HOT DOG!) but my mom helped me to remember that we’re not to muzzle the ox as he treads. H never, ever would get a hot dog at home. But he loves food and trying what others bring is part of what makes him look so forward to feeding the poor each month. 😉

    My favorite part is how happy the people we are serving all are to see my children. Only one other couple sometimes bring their grandchildren (they are your boys’ ages). Those boys love grabbing a spoon and serving up the food. I think serving with children is somewhat unusual today.


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