Parenting: Kids and community

Raking leaves for some neighborhood seniors: David Mutphy says it's just one of many community service activities for you and your kids.
David Murphy says your child's school Community Service Corps may offer a chance for a shared, positive experience.
December 14, 2011 8:08:19 AM PST
Last weekend, the sun was out, afternoon highs were approaching the mid-50s and my son and I were out raking leaves. But it was somebody else's lawn. As an 8th grader, my 13-year-old joined his School's Community Service Corps, an organization that in one form or another exists at almost every school out there. The idea is for kids to join in efforts that benefit their community. Often, parents who don't mind giving up a bit of their own free time can join-in, too.

So far, the duty has been pretty light. We've made sandwiches and packed lunches for a homeless shelter (I actually drove the finished boxes over to the grateful shelter staff in my car). Then, there was the raking project where about a dozen students and about as many parents raked and bagged leaves at the home of an elderly couple in the neighborhood. The couple was so grateful they pledged to make a donation to the program and also made sure to have plenty of bottled water on hand for everyone. We've missed a couple of other Sunday morning events, helping to move the elderly residents of a retirement home over to the complex's chapel for church services, but there's another one of those coming around soon.

A little prodding

My son is like any other kid. It's not always "fun" having to throw on a coat on what is usually a day off and head out to do this stuff, but he usually goes along without any serious complaint. He understands that he's made a commitment to helping-out, which is always lauded in the Murphy family. He was already of strong character, but I'm thinking that kids who take on this sort of responsibility build themselves up even more, and may be doing some subtle preparation for the future when, as an adult, they confront situations where a little altruism and grace can be put to good use.

Even better, my son gets to see me in action during these events, which is a nice way to demonstrate the value in what he's doing. Setting an example is always a good approach when it comes to giving your kids important life lessons, and these community Service events have that aspect built-in. Oh, and by the way, the hour of raking and bagging was a nice cardio work-out, too, which I can always use!

After a job well done, it's easy to add something fun into the mix, like a stop for lunch at a burger place or home for a soda and a game of Monopoly.

---David Murphy

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