Outside the Walls

I was eight years old, dressed in whatever costume I’d chosen for that particular Halloween, and my brother and I walked tentatively down the hallways of a local nursing home. I don’t remember much about this experience, but I remember the smells made me want to hold my nose, and I was scared to talk to the older people who grinned wide at the sight of us.

My mom gently prodded us, and so we’d walk forward with a timid “Trick or Treat,” then hold out our bags where the grey haired men and women would drop chocolate goodies in our pillowcases.

It seemed strange to me at the time, but looking back on it now, I get what my mom was doing. She wanted us to see that we could serve and bring joy to others, and it could still be rewarding to us.

My parents never shied away from encouraging my brother and I to serve others. From local service projects where we helped clean up our community or serve meals to people in need, to foreign mission trips with our church, my parents were quick to push us outside the walls of our own home so that we could see the way others lived.

My mom and dad understood they were raising my brother and I in a land of privilege, and because of this they were intentional in how they raised us. They pointed us outward, and made us aware that with the grace of a life of privilege comes responsibility.

I like to lovingly refer to this as the “Spiderman Principle of Living.”

Now that I’m grown, I appreciate even more the effort my parents took to make sure I wasn’t caught up in all that my cushy American life had to offer. It’s hard to live life intentionally. It’s hard because it requires effort, and it would be so much easier to simply sit back, indulge our children, and pretend that the world around us isn’t actually hurting.

Now I’ll confess, I’m not always good at encouraging my children to serve. I get lazy and comfortable in my day-to-day routine, and stepping outside of that requires more effort than I’m often willing to exert. But what’s the alternative?

Maybe you, like me, long to point your children outward, to show them that this world is full of needs, and to empower them to see and understand that they can make a difference. We can never underestimate our children’s ability to make an impact. In fact, children are often the greatest harbingers of change in a world crying out for someone to take notice.


For those of you desiring to take a step toward service with your children, I offer this encouragement:

1.) Watch your child’s natural bent and follow it

Whether shy and timid, or outgoing and gregarious, there are places for your children to meet needs. From local food pantries to nursing homes, lemonade stands to local service projects, getting your children outside their own walls and into the world around them can be fun and pleasant for everyone.

2.) Let your children see the sacrifice

Serving others outside our homes will require sacrifice. As we offer up our time, our skills, our money, and our energy, our kids will observe and see how that affects us. Let them know it’s okay.

Show them that skipping a few meals out and eating more dinners at home gives you more money to give away. Let them see the physical effort of mowing a neighbor’s yard, or taking a meal to a sick friend, or serving at a food pantry.

Bring your children into the process of serving with you, and let them know that it might be difficult, but in the end the satisfaction of knowing you brought joy to someone’s life was worth the sacrifice.

3.) Introduce your children to other kids who are making a difference in the world

A quick Google search will lead you to countless websites and articles featuring young children who are having a big impact. Let your children see this, and show them that just because they’re small doesn’t mean they can’t make the world a better place.

Looking outside the walls of our own homes will beg sacrifice, yes, but the sacrifice doesn’t have to be a major one. You don’t have to leave the country to make an impact. You can change the world right where you are, with your little ones by your side, and in so doing you will raise up a new generation of servant-hearted individuals who are ready and willing to meet the needs of the world.

And isn’t that a beautiful thought, indeed.


Volunteering in Schools & Fighting Volunteer Fatigue with VolunteerSpot.com

You might be one of the thousands of parents volunteering at your child’s school.  And of those thousands – you might be one of the many frustrated, overworked parents searching for a way to balance something they think is extremely important with a need for balance in their own lives….

I chatted with VolunteerSpot Founder, Karen Bantuveris to get her thoughts and suggestions….

Visit VolunteerSpot for more ways to streamline the Volunteer process at your school….

Make a Difference Monday

I will be talking about my goals/resolutions/plans for 2010 in a post later this week…..I’m still wrapping my head around it all, and the truth is, I always plan for the ‘new stuff’ to take full effect on my birthday later this month.  So, I have a little time.  I figure my resolutions should coincide with my new year. Makes sense, right?

However, there is one thing I want to share with you now.

Make a Difference Monday.

You know I have a passion for ‘give good, get good‘ – meaning pay it forward, give a little, make a change, make a difference.  I’m not talking about big donations or dedicating hours of volunteer time – though both are fantastic if you can swing it.  I’m thinking about all the small ways you can make the world a better place – all the ways you can be the example of good for your kids.

If there is anything I am learning as a parent – especially as the small people continue to grow AND get smarter (who knew?) – it is that I have to do as I say.  So, giving lip service to ‘being a good person’ doesn’t actually work as a guide for them, if I am not, in fact showing them how to do it.

I can always use a little inspiration, as I am sure you can – so will you join me?  Will you try to do one thing each week – big, little, great, small…that puts a smile on someone else’s face? And then will you share it?

Tell us how your 4 year old tried to hold the door open for a new mom with a stroller, or how you paid for the car behind you in the Starbucks Drive thru.  Share about your favorite charity – and link to them, so we can be inspired by a new cause. Tell someone else’s story – you witnessed children filing into a nursing home to sing for the residents, or saw a teenager stop what he was doing to help an elderly woman who had spilled her purse.

Do you know of a product we buy that may donate to a certain charity?  Or a company that dedicates proceeds to a cause close to their heart?  Share it.

Don’t you think….if we can share the good, it will spread?  Well, that’s what I hope.

I’ll have a post and a McLinky set up every Monday  – so you can link back to a post you have written – or you can put your thoughts in the comments.

This is the beauty of Make a Difference Monday.

Looking forward to sharing a little, ‘give good, get good’……