A Joyful Holiday Tradition — Serving Others
As a parent, it is often difficult to know what messages are registering with your kids. You invest lots of time and effort in exposing them to experiences and providing them with opportunities that you hope will resonate with them in a positive way. But since kids are often less than talkative about what they are thinking or feeling, it is hard to know for sure when something you do or say has had an impact, especially at the time. On occasion, however, if you are fortunate and wait long enough, you may get a belated hint or clue that a particular parental effort did not go for naught.
Such was the case with a service project we did with my kids each holiday season when they were in grade school. In our community, there is a Holiday Food & Gift Basket program which provides assistance to low income families that lack the resources to buy gifts or afford a special holiday meal. As with many similar programs throughout the Chicago area and across the country, individuals and groups can sponsor a child or family in need by purchasing gifts for them.
For several years we sponsored a family, trying to choose one with kids of similar ages to ours. Shopping for the gifts was invariably a good family time, and it had the intended result of making our kids think, however briefly, about folks less fortunate than themselves. But in retrospect, what seems to have really stuck with our kids is when we took the additional step of helping deliver the food and gifts, which allowed them to actually meet some of the recipients.
In years since, our kids have recalled how surprised and genuinely moved they were by the warmth and gratitude expressed by the gift basket recipients, even though they were often living in relatively spartan conditions. Particularly memorable was one older couple that gave us a freshly made loaf of banana bread as their way of saying thanks. Meeting and interacting with these folks brought out the humanity of serving and helping others in ways that simply buying the gifts never could.
In our article, “The Gift of Serving Those in Need” on page 44, writer Jay Copp interviews a number of volunteers who share why they do what they do, and the value it brings to their lives. The article also provides a number of suggestions for local volunteer opportunities, one of which is preparing food packs at Feed My Starving Children in Aurora. The church I attend sends volunteer groups there several times a year and participants have found the experience to be both fun and meaningful. This issue also contains a number of other great articles, including interviews with three homeowners who turn their homes and yards into illuminated holiday wonderlands (page 56); a Q&A with an up-and-coming country singer/songwriter with west suburban roots (page 14); and a feature on a trailblazing pilot from Naperville who helped break down racial barriers in the airline industry (page 18).
As always, thanks for being a reader and we wish you a truly joyous holiday season!Edit Module