“From what we get, we can make a living; what we give, however, makes a life.” ~ Arthur Ashe
I started working in a nasty corner charity shop that was dark and grey and smelled like dead old people. It was for my community service hours as part of a national philanthropy organization, which shall remain nameless. Never, even once, did it feel like I was working for my community or making the world a better place. It felt like a lame, monthly obligation. And it was.
I grew up helping people at events designed to give kids “community service” hours. It was good for our high school applications, and great for college entrance brownie points. But, it missed the point. My Community Service didn’t feel remotely like I was part of a community, and even less, providing a service.
Going out on a limb here: I want my kids to want to give.
I suppose if we were part of a church, there would be built-in community service. If we were part of Boy Scouts, then we’d have charity work at-the-ready. But truth is, even that kind of giving is forced giving. It’s what you have to do, not what you yearn for.
So, a year ago, I plated the seed with my then twin 9-year-olds. I told them when they turned 10 in July 2013, they’d begin service to their community. They’d pick their own avenue of giving, be as creative as they wanted to be, but that there were two rules:
- Each child must give their age in hours monthly. (So at age 10, they’d do 10 hours per month).
- You have to stick with your choice, however difficult, boring, tedious, for a period of one year.
July came around and the kids set out to pick their organizations. There is power in choosing where you want to put your free time and they were excited. But that faded pretty quickly when we realized that our community is not used to kids giving just for the sake of it.
My son tried his first pick, the library. No go. No kids can volunteer until age 13. Then came his second pick, Sacred Heart Community Services. Nope, no youth volunteers. My daughter tried ASPCA. No way, too much liability. Her second try at The Thrift Box — they don’t take kids, even with adult supervision.
Then the third, fourth and fifth tries came and went. No luck. No one wants 10-year old kids who want to give their time to help the community.
We’re stumped. There has got to be a way for our younger kids to learn the feeling of giving, however small.
Got any ideas?