Would you believe me if I said that all three of my children have been volunteers since they were all just a few weeks old? Would you also believe me if I said that they actually beg to help others because it brings so much joy and fun to their lives?
Some may not think of volunteering or charity work as being fun, but it absolutely is and I'll tell you why. Just by signing-up for an event or giving your word that you will help, puts a guaranteed smile on your face and that’s not even when the fun actually begins. The true joy lies in the camaraderie you experience as a family, as a team, and as a group of like-minded doers that all have the same desire—to help someone else in their time of need.
At this point, you may be thinking that it doesn't make sense that you could possibly have fun while at the same time, the recipient of your volunteerism or charity work is in a dark place, but I have come to learn that it's actually the complete opposite. By giving yourself and your time to someone else, you are showing them that they are loved, that they are not alone, that you are in their corner, and that there is strength and hope in numbers as you rally around them to achieve their goal—whether it's prayer that they need, monetary help, food, a jacket and warm boots, shelter, or a simple hug. This, in turn, puts their fears and anxieties to rest—even if only for a brief moment—and puts a smile on their face and joy in their heart. That is what's fun to see!
The reason I am so confident in saying this is because my entire family participates in volunteer work any chance we get. From the time all three of my kids were born, they were with me at every charity and fundraising event I worked—even while hanging from me in a baby sling! No matter what the cause or who needs our help, we do whatever we can to offer our time and hands to whoever may be needing it.
I have raised my children to put others first as we help feed hungry families, shop for and deliver Christmas presents to other children, work at fundraising events, raise money for numerous organizations and national charities, give our clothes to someone who needs them more, making homemade hats and blankets for NICU and cancer patients, and working at countless school and church events in which they actually beg to be a part of. It's fun for kids to feel grown-up when given the responsibility to take part in charitable activities.
In my twenties, I was a very active member and officer in our local Junior Chamber of Commerce (Jaycees) chapter in which the organization's main goal is to support area charities and raise monetary funds for many worthwhile causes. I was just starting my family at the time and as each child was born, they were right there with me—whether they were old enough to help yet or not.
My kids are now 14, 11, and 7, and have already worked benefits for the United Way, March of Dimes, rang bells for Salvation Army, participated in Make-A-Wish events, served food at outreach dinners, and are all busy members on my Relay for Life team that benefits the American Cancer Society. We are also active volunteers for a number of local foundations that were spearheaded by residents in our community to help support other charitable causes near and dear to us.
As you can see, I could tell you so much more about every organization in which I feel strongly about helping, but the main point is this…just get out there and help somebody somewhere somehow. The immense joy you and your children will experience is nothing compared to the joy you will bring to the lives you touch.
We aren't a perfect family by any means, but my kids are definitely more aware than many others their age that there are people out there who need their help, who are sick, or sadly even dying. They have a true appreciation for how fortunate they are to be in good health, to have a place to call home, to have warm clothes wrapped around them, to have food in their bellies, and to have parents who love them unconditionally and are always there when they need them. I feel they have learned this because I always tried to make volunteer work fun for them by showing them the immeasurable happiness that comes from selflessly giving your time and support to someone other than yourself.
Make it a point to try this with your own children and look for ways that your family can help others in need and I promise, you will experience a whole new kind of fun that you never knew existed!
* Also featured on You Plus 2 Parenting as part of their 28 Days of Play series.