The Spirit of Service
50 hours. Yes, I said 50 hours. This is the number of community service hours my children’s school hopes that each student will perform this school year. 50 hours! For each student!
Now, I believe in performing community service. In fact, teaching my three young children the importance of service is one of the most important things I can do as a father. My wife and I have tried to show them since they were very young how important service is. We have been involved in our church, have volunteered to be Cub Scout leaders, sports coaches, and classroom helpers. Our children have helped us collect food for our church food pantry, helped when we volunteered to help build the school playground, and helped us rake leaves for the elderly or shut-in. My wife and I have talked to our children about the importance of service and we have made a point to always discuss why we are helping others when we participated in service projects. We want to raise children who recognize that everyone needs a helping hand some time or another and who are willing to lend that hand.
Although my wife and I think it is important to teach our children about service, getting 50 hours in one school year is difficult. Don’t get me wrong, I applaud the school for recognizing the importance of service. I also applaud them for setting a goal for each student in the school. I just think that the goal may be a little high, especially for the younger students. As the father of a fifth- and third-grader, I have struggled to find meaningful, age-appropriate projects for our children to participate in. We also want to make sure that the projects we pick are interesting for our kids, so they actually get something out of it.
We have been working on getting the kids their 50 hours since September, but we are still struggling to get to the 50 hour mark. The boys have made several trips to Harvester’s to help sort and pack food packages for those in need and made dinner for the residents of Ronald McDonald House. We have raked leaves and shoveled snow (we only had one opportunity for the snow with our warm winter) and have cleaned up trash in several parks. They have volunteered up at school and helped paint at their grandparents. Even with all these projects under their belt, they are still about 20 hours short (each) of reaching the 50 hour goal. With only about six weeks to go before the end of the school year, my family will be scrambling to find more service opportunities and my fear is that these projects will become something they have to do, rather than something they want to do. I am afraid they will lose the “spirit” of community service and view it as homework.
How do you teach children the importance of serving others? By having them do community service. The service has to be meaning for the children though and not just a number.