Being from Chicago, I’ve always loved watching the seasons change. However, I did spend a large portion of my adult life living in the South: Mexico, the Bahamas, Georgia, and Florida. The latter is where I got married and gave birth to both of my children, but I never considered Florida home. In fact, I was the only person I knew that got excited when it was gray and rainy because I could look out my window and at least pretend it was cold outside! I’m afraid I may have passed my propensity for cool weather on to my children. In fact, when it came time for us to sell our house in Florida to move to Nashville, my (then) 3-year-old daughter said, “Mom, no one will buy our house!” I looked at her quizzically. We had just spent months fixing up our home to make it look even better than when we had lived there! When I asked her why, she simply responded with, “Don’t they know how hot it is here?!?!” Three Falls later, our entire family is now comfortably settled in Nashville and enjoying every pumpkin patch, hooded sweater and leaf pile we come across. For whatever reason, it also seems that when the temperatures drop, the idea of volunteering comes up. Perhaps it’s because the Fall signifies the start of the holidays and cold weather, two reasons that make it even more unbearable for many of us to imagine others alone and without basic needs being met. I’m the first to recognize that although there are always things I want to improve on, I have great kids. But they simply didn’t grow up in the time of our parents. I mean really—my dad was born during the Great Depression & fought in World War II – I don’t stand a chance of teaching my kids the kind of gratitude and appreciation that came naturally from growing up in that era. So without guilting them daily with the fact that they better clean their dinner plate because there are starving kids in Africa, we thought we’d try something a little closer to home. So we volunteered as a family at a local soup kitchen. Even though our kids weren’t actually chopping or cooking the food, they still got to help and more importantly, they got to meet the people being directly affected by the organization. Our kids played in the next room while we prepped in the kitchen, then they came and ate with us as a group and joined in the cleanup. (You can read more about our kids volunteer experience here). If you’re looking for volunteer opportunities for your kids, try some of these ideas:
- Ask at your local church or community center for family-friendly volunteer opportunities already in place.
- Consider sponsoring a child as a family through organizations like Compassion International or World Vision.
- Call your local children’s hospital and see if you and your child can come play/read/sit with some of the kids with long term illnesses.
- Visit a local nursing home with your kids to just talk, sing Christmas Carols, play cards, deliver pictures, etc.
Regardless of what you decide to do, have a dialogue (notice I say ‘dialogue’ and not ‘speech’) with your kids about why it’s important to give of our time and gifts (both intrinsic gifts and financial gifts), discover what they’re passionate about and build a volunteer experience from there. If they love animals, look a visiting a local shelter and walking the animals. If they love art, call your local museum and find out if they can help with cleaning up the kids’ areas there. If they love kids, maybe they can volunteer at your church nursery. Most importantly, start at home.
Just like it’s hard to expect your kids to keep their rooms clean when your own is a mess, kids will not understand how to demonstrate gratitude if they don’t first experience it.
Do you regularly pray before your meal and show gratitude for what’s in front of you, even if it’s not your favorite? Do you thank your spouse for helping around the house, even if you expect him to do it? Do you express gratitude for the mundane, like a beautiful day or getting to school on time? If not, start with these small expressions of gratitude in your own home and you’ll soon see them foster into larger demonstrations in their greater circle of influence!
With a passion for teaching and mentoring others as her inspiration, Sami Cone began blogging in 2009 to encourage others to live their dream life and pursue their passions. A published author and seminar speaker, she draws on her experiences as a writer, editor, university professor, performer, professional athlete, and pageant winner to help women realize their full potential in life. Sami appears regularly on TV & Radio as a Frugal Expert and has been blogging for Tommy Nelson since 2010. Sami and her husband of seven years, Rick, thrive in Nashville with their two children.