A few weeks ago on Studio 5 I shared our family’s experience of mentoring a refugee family from Somalia. Check it out…Studio 5 Segment
Filming that segment got me thinking…an important part of organizing my life has been organizing my family. And one of the greatest ways we have organized our family is with a focus on regular family service.
As I mentioned in the segment, our kids need frequent opportunities to look outside of themselves. We live in a time when it’s easy to feel deprived if we don’t have the latest and the greatest. As parents, my husband and I find it a constant challenge to keep our children both grounded and grateful for the rich, abundant lives they have. Regular family service seems to be a solution that decreases selfishness, increases confidence and family peace, and creates some lasting memories.
Let’s talk reality, though. There’s the issue of making it happen. None of us need one more thing to add to our busy calendars! I will post soon about how to find the time for priorities – those to-do’s that have big pay offs over time. But for now, here’s a list of some of the things we’ve done with our family. Keep in mind that I have five children in a 12-year window, so the projects we’ve chosen have to be interesting enough for teenagers and simple enough to accommodate toddlers. It’s a tall order but worth every ounce of energy we’ve put into it!
-Local Food Bank
-Visit an assisted living center
-Invite a new neighbor over for dessert
-Collect gently used items for charity
-Serve a meal at a soup kitchen
-Mentor a refugee family
-Sub for Santa
-Select a Cause
-Humanitarian Service Trip
Local Food Bank
Sort food at your local food bank. Even the little ones can help carry canned food and sort the soups from the veggies.
Visit an assisted living center
Sometimes we’ve taken homemade cards; other times those that can play the piano have performed a recital piece. This has been a great way for the kids to get more comfortable around aging adults, and it feels pretty good to know that your visit is the highlight of someone’s day. We’ve even brought friends along for a little singing concert!
Invite a new neighbor over for dessert
This is one of my favorite traditions. We’ve become close friends with some incredible people we would have otherwise never gotten to know. The newbies enjoy the chance to get to know their neighbors, but we feel like we have been the ones that have ultimately benefitted the most, as we feel surrounded by so many good friends.
If you have an aging parent or grandparent, this is a no-brainer. There are always things they can’t reach, repairs they can’t make, or project they can’t do on their own. Sometimes we’ll make them a freezer meal, other times we’ll just come for a visit. What a blessing it has been for my kids to deepen their relationship with Grandma! And if you don’t have a Grandma or Grandpa nearby – adopt one!
Collect gently used items for charity
My kids have gained good leadership skills from this kind of service. After selecting an organization and assessing needs, they have created flyers, posted on social media, and gathered donations. Then as a family we have delivered donations to grateful recipients.
Serve a meal at a soup kitchen
This was an experience just for the older kids, and wow, this kind of direct interaction left a big impression! While personal safety is important in this kind of activity, we felt like we gained a new perspective about the people holding signs we pass by on the streets.
Mentor a refugee family
As mentioned in the KSL video, we’ve recently been mentoring a refugee family from Somalia. As a family we have helped them acclimate to a new culture, including teaching them cooking and nutrition, hygiene, cleaning, budgeting, and of course – organizing. We have played with them and help gather sheets, cookware, winter clothing, and other necessities. Most of all, we have grown to love this sweet family. They are so gracious and accepting. The father said, “The children’s favorite part of the week is when you come.”
Sub for Santa
Even in our lean years we’ve always found joy in reserving some of our Christmas budget to help others. We have dear memories of dropping gifts on the doorstep of an unsuspecting family and making a run for it. I love the perspective this brings at a time of year when the children become very “ME” focused.
This version of a heart attack might be old news to you, but my little kids can really take the lead in this service activity. Sometime in the weeks preceding Valentine’s Day, we select a few families or individuals to show some love. Throughout the week my littles will cut out hearts in various shades of red and pink paper. Then one night we creep up to the doorstep and tape hearts all over their door. (Sometimes we even get fancy and attach hearts to straws or skewers to line their front walk.) We might also leave a plate of heart-shaped sugar cookies – if I’m feeling ambitious!
Select a Cause
Occasionally my heart has connected with a cause and I’ve taken my family along with me for the ride. There are charitable foundations on a variety of topics, and one is sure to resonate with something you are passionate about. I connected with Days For Girls, an organization that supplies feminine hygiene to girls in Africa. After learning about the challenges that these beautiful girls face from lacking proper supplies, and having so many daughters of my own, I decided this would be a great cause for our family. We are proud to have helped create many feminine hygiene kits that have been shipped to Africa.
Humanitarian Service Trip
This one has been on my bucket list for years, and we’ve just recently returned from this phenomenal experience. It’s a tough re-entry into our affluent world after seeing the conditions other people are living in. This might not be a realistic family service project for everyone, but if it’s something that speaks to your heart, I always believe where there’s a will, there’s a way. We were surprised with the affordable options we found when we searched online for charitable organizations leading these humanitarian trips. Just be sure to get some credible references to ensure you are engaging with a reputable foundation. Another option is to help collect supplies for other families or individuals going on a humanitarian trip.
There are many ways to serve. Remember, it doesn’t have to look a certain way. And also note that we aren’t doing ALL of these at once. This has been a collection of activities over the last decade or so. Just start simply and be sure to reinforce the positive moments as they happen. Build the case with the kids that service is an important part of a happy, organized life. And believe me – service always yields a big payday! I love the compassion my children have learned, the feeling of peace we experience after serving others, and the attitude of service we have all worked hard to adopt.
I’d love to hear your ideas about service! What has worked for you? How has service helped benefit or organize your family?
Note: One great resource for me has been 52 Weeks of Fun Family Service by Merrilee Boyack. I love the way Boyack shares ideas that even little kids can do!