A year ago, I started thinking about serving with my boys and IMMEDIATELY was overwhelmed. "I mean, how can I manage serving with young, active boys? Serving takes too long." The past 5 months have proven how wrong I was. Just very wrong.
When we serve in the community, we serve in short periods of time. A larger project is broken into several smaller projects. Here are our favorite "In the Community" service ideas!
Pick Up Litter
We are currently picking litter out of a creek near the elementary school my son goes to . . . we've picked up litter twice, 15 minutes at a time. The great thing about picking up litter, the kids can see immediate results from their efforts. The next time we go, we are bringing several friends along. We may be able to finish cleaning out the creek this next time with their help!
Visit an Animal Shelter
We do this across two days. The first day, we gather up materials to donate (if we want). Many shelters need stuff we have around the house like old towels we never use, newspaper, or a roll of paper towels that we can donate easily. The second day, we load the kids and supplies in the car and visit the animal shelter. We are there as long as their attention and good behavior lasts. Sometimes, it is 10 minutes. The last time we went it was 30 minutes.
Service does not have to last a long time to have a lasting effect on those serving.
Donate to a food Pantry
The grocery stores in my area make doing this ridiculously easy. You can buy a bag that has supplies already in it. The bags typically range from $6-$12 to purchase. Then the grocery store donates that bag. Another way to do this is to call your local food pantry and ask what is needed. In one day, we'll buy the supplies. The next day, we'll go and donate the food.
Saying Thank You to Fire Fighters, Police Officers, or Teachers
I haven't found a single time where our baked treats or basket of fruit and breads was turned away by one of our community helpers. The fire fighters always take the time to show the boys around the fire station. In one day, we make or gather the goods. The next day, we take our basket to donate and say thank you.
Visit a Nursing Home
The initial visit for this one takes the longest. I toured a couple of facilities before deciding on one that would be friendly---not scary---for my boys. Once I found one, I met with the Activities Director for a few minutes, filled out paperwork for a background check (not every facility has you do this), and made a date for us to come by to visit. Once that initial visit was over, it is easy. I just contacted the nursing home to see if it was a good day to come sing, bring flowers, or visit a resident. Each time we go, we leave in such good spirits!
Service does not have be complicated to be meaningful.
Teach children to serve. It is worth it.