One thing that has been really important to me as a parent is that my kids learn to serve others. As kids get older, it is sort of a natural thing for their worlds to be ALL about them. Serving their community is a great way to get your kids involved with others who need some help and help them get outside of themselves a little bit. When I was a little girl, my mom was big into Meals on Wheels. Meals on Wheels is a meal delivery program for the elderly and people who are disabled. I remember my mom loading up our brown Pontiac with hospital cafeteria looking meals and driving around town with her Farah Fawcett hair visiting little old people who always seemed happier to see a visitor than they were their meal. I can still remember the smell of the food and the smiles of the little old ladies offering me mints.
With my kids, I wanted to give them the opportunity to step outside of themselves and serve others in need. We have a nursing home up the street that we visit on a regular basis and it has been such a wonderful opportunity for my kids to serve. The director of the nursing home is so excited about my kid’s interest, she is always inviting them to special events and activities.
My oldest daughter is a musician and she loves to head up to the nursing home with her guitar and sing with the residents. My youngest daughter is also a big hit. The little old ladies love to see little girls dressed up in pretty dresses and fancy shoes. Everyday when we drive past the nursing home, my kindergartner says, “Oh, look mom! There is our little old friends house!” My son likes to bring card tricks or play balloon volleyball.
Our “little old friends house” cares specifically for dementia and Alzheimer’s patients, so most of them are living in the past. My kids have learned so much from them. They tell my kids stories about their youth, wars, their families and one favorite resident teaches my kids the Jitterbug every time we come. The more advanced Alzheimer’s patients teach my kids how to just love someone without expecting anything in return. In the summer time, we get to take the healthier residents for walks with the Director and we almost always come back with all of them!
Well, okay, there was that one summer when Art decided to try to sneak away. Funny how slow he walked in the nursing home with his walker and how fast he sped off once he got outside holding his walker over his head!
We started off visiting the nursing home thinking that we had something to offer, but in the end, my kids got so much in return. My kids truly love the friends that they have made and always leave there happy and smiling. Along the last few years, we have had to say goodbye to a few of our little old friends whose time had ended but my kids lives were better for knowing them. My kids are learning compassion, empathy and love in a way that cannot be taught but through experience.
There are so many different ways to get your kids involved with in your community.
** Meals on Wheels is still a great program.
** Nursing homes and hospitals are always looking for people to volunteer.
** Local Homeless Shelters need volunteers to serve in their kitchens or help with the children’s programs.
** Local food banks need help organizing and passing out food.
** Most cities have fall programs that ask volunteers to rake, paint and clean up the homes of the elderly and disabled in the fall months.
These opportunities can be a great way to serve your community as a family and help your kids learn to serve others.
But, keep an extra eye out for little old guys named Art, they will fool you!
Meals on Wheels - www.mowaa.org
National Directory of Homeless Shelters - www.homelessshelterdirectory.org
National Directory of Assisted Living Facilities - www.nursinghomeinfo.com