I’m one of those helper-types. I’ve been involved in community service – in some capacity- since elementary school. But community service and children? Motherhood has thrown an interesting wrench into the mix. Motherhood makes service more …challenging. I have three young children with me almost all of the time. I can’t really serve without them, plus I want for them to participate with me, beside me. That is how children learn best. That said, it’s tough to find service gigs that allow for three young children.. especially when one member of the party is extremely energetic and frightfully loud. Today’s post is about two things: how I managed to find an opportunity to serve, and a bit of sweetness that made our service all the more special.
In trying to find service opportunities for our [loud] little family, I’ve had to think outside the box a bit. Heretofore, we’ve participated in service that is more removed (donations, letters, walk-a-thons, etc.), and very little hands-on service. The problem is, I want my children to experience service. That feeling- of knowing that you are helping others- is truly unmatched, and it’s how you get hooked into service. I want that for them. I even have an entire Pinterest board filled with motivators, folks!
Last Wednesday was Ash Wednesday and Leo is almost seven years old. I’ve been feeling like it’s time to take our service to the next level, even it’s just baby steps to the next level. So, do you know what I did? Do you know how I managed to find service for this wild little guy of mine?
I asked for help, folks.
Aren’t the best solutions the simplest ones? I asked friends who work at our church for help. They know our family. They have seen Leo in action. What can we do? How can we help? Do you have any baby steps for us? How can we serve if we are this loud and this all over the place?? Why are folks so hesitant to ask for help when they need it? Ask and you shall receive, am I right?
Now, Leo has two jobs. After our weekly church play group, he is in charge of wiping down the tables in room in which we meet, as well as all the other classrooms where religious education classes are held. In addition, once a week he is in charge of checking all the pews in our church to be sure that the Bibles, hymnals, and prayer cards are present and appropriately arranged. He is over the moon about these tasks.
But this post is not just about Leo, folks. Just you wait, and you will see.
Last Wednesday, Ash Wednesday, we had a wonderful time with our church group. Leo was so inspired by his new service activities that he suggested another act of service. He wanted to read The Snowy Day aloud to the group and then lead the children in a craft related to the book. It was incredibly sweet. I was so proud, not only of his suggestion but the way in which he carried out these tasks. He has matured so much in the past year.
After group, he was able to perform his two jobs for the very first time. He was elated as he wiped down every table. Then, it was time to check every pew at church. Leo had been talking about this task nonstop for the entire week. He was unbelievably excited about it. In his mind, the pews would be a disaster of Bibles and prayer cards and he would neatly arrange each and every one. He told T and Seuss, who were with us, that they could divide the problems discovered equally among them so that everyone would have a chance to help, but that he would be in charge since it was technically his job. He was overseer of the pew problems, folks.
Well, as I said, it was Ash Wednesday. There was a mass that morning and another one that evening. Ash Wednesday is a big deal in our faith and I’m sure that is why the church was almost immaculate when we arrived. Someone had done Leo’s job already.
It took Leo about two seconds to assess the situation and realize that there were not many problems to remedy. His shoulders slumped, he was deflated. He looked downtrodden but still determined. He pouted, but he didn’t whine because I had warned him ahead of time that he’d better not whine in God’s house (and it worked! See? He’s matured quite a bit!). Still, he set out to check every pew for problems. He found only one problem in the first section of pews. He was overjoyed when he found it. He let out a whoop and jumped all around before fixing it. He was over the moon.
And here’s where the story gets interesting and here’s the reason for this entire post. While Leo was fixing this first problem and while Seuss was seated in the choir area belting out a Seuss-tastic version of Oh Holy Night, T was doing what she does best: taking it all in.
T was in the next section of pews. She had been humming a song and walking, running her hands along the pews. I watched her like a hawk (that’s what we mamas do in a church, am I right ladies?), and she kept looking over her shoulder at Leo. I immediately recognized the look in her eyes. She was assessing, observing, thinking, planning. Next, she would turn away and continue walking and humming but would periodically pause and look to the rack in the pew which held the Bible and prayer cards. Quickly, she’d look in Leo’s direction and, seeing him distracted, she would silently rearrange all the items into a haphazard mess. Then, she’d continue on for a bit, before turning around and repeating the entire scenario.
She was creating problems because her brother was seeking problems. She knew the problems would bring him joy.
And the problems did bring him joy. When Leo would come upon a [T-created] problem, he would jump in the air and shout, “I found one! I found a problem!” He would smile and fix the situation. As this happened, I’d look toward T, who was standing on the opposite side of the church. She stood, facing Leo, observing, and beaming. She didn’t notice me, but I saw her. I watched this all go down again and again. T never said anything.
Leo was not the only child serving that day, folks, and I could not be more proud.
Tell me, how do you manage service with children, especially with the kids who are loud and can’t sit still? Have you any tips? Do you have a child like T? A kid who will observe and then serve without want for recognition? How do you manage a squeaky wheel and one who would rather not be called out? Please share here!
Life’s most urgent and persistent question is, “What are you doing for others?”
~ Martin Luther King, Jr.
Cait co-hosts The Homeschool Sisters Podcast and is co-founder of Raising Poppies, a community for parents of gifted and twice-exceptional children. Cait is also founder of the Family Book Club at My Little Poppies, a fantastic community of book-loving parents and the Gameschool Community at My Little Poppies, a vibrant community of gameschoolers.
Cait is a contributing writer for Simple Homeschool. Her work has also appeared on The Huffington Post, The Mighty, Scary Mommy, GeekMom, and many others. You can find her on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram
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