Last Saturday my husband and I drove an hour north to take our son to volunteer. This was the first time he'd ever "volunteered" for anything. Did he have fun? Yes, some. Does he want to do it again? No, he was very decisive about that. Do I think it was good for him? Well, I hope so. I think maybe in the long run it will be. And not just because we get to go to Disneyland now.
So, how did this all come about you ask? Lately, I've been donating money here and there. I haven't really picked any one charity, it's just that if something pops up on my radar that I feel passionate about, then I give a little. And really, I mean a little because we don't make a lot of money. However, we do make money, we do have jobs, so a little is what I give.
Once in a while I give a buck or two to someone who is pan handling. It's not often because honestly I don't really carry cash around with me anymore. Everyone takes debit now. (BTW, I saw on the news over Christmas that the Salvation Army was outfitting some of their kettles with credit card readers.) I give my share at work (often I give more than my share because I feel bad that some people don't give at all). Still, this doesn't seem like much to me. It's enough for some people, but not me. More importantly, it's not something that my kids ever notice.
The thing is that my parents have always been very generous people. I've heard it said that, "those who have the least to give, give the most." I think about that phrase a lot because while I understand what it means, it doesn't say the right thing to me. I'd prefer to think that, "those who have the most, give the most." My parents have a lot of heart. They haven't ever had a lot of money to give, but they've always had time and talent and devotion. So, that's what they give. They give money too, but I think a lot of time it's more about what you do than what you give.
This has made an impression on me. It's not a life lesson that my parents ever tried to teach me except maybe by example. It's one that I definitely feel that my children need to learn, especially since it seems like a lot of parents skip this lesson. I'm trying to start that lesson with my sons. I may not get as far with it as my parents did, but then again, maybe I'll get farther.
Back to Disneyland. Disney is having a promotion right now called, Give a Day. Get a Disney Day. (I am in no way promoting Disney here! Just so you know. Personally, I feel that the Disney corporation is slightly evil, but my son doesn't and that's okay with me.) The gist is that you volunteer for one day and you earn a one-day pass to either Disneyland or Disney World. So, I signed up figuring this is as good a place to start as any. At the very least, we'll get free Disneyland passes.
So, Saturday morning we drove an hour north. My husband and I complained more about the long drive than my son did (BTW, our six-year-old was the only one who went with us because you have to be at least six to volunteer.) We arrived at 10:00 on the dot (my husband was very smug about this because I was freaking out the entire time that we'd be late). We trooped to the basement of a church and took a seat at a long table with another family.
This volunteer event was put on by Habitat for Humanity and no, we weren't there to build houses (at least not real houses). Because of the Disney promotion Habitat had been challenged to come up with a way for small children and their families to become involved with volunteering. Normally, you have to be 16 to volunteer with Habitat for Humanity because they do build houses and there are insurance issues. Here is the description for the event that we signed up for:
"Children age 6 to 96 are invited to join us Saturdays from 10:00 AM to noon to create personalized thank you cards for Habitat for Humanity's donors and volunteers. All supplies are ready and waiting; we look forward to sharing this Habitat opportunity with you!"
I thought this was perfect! My kid likes to draw (although it's usually things with many legs and eyeballs), and it's a perfect amount of time. Just long enough to get something done, but not so long that he starts complaining that he's bored. I was right. It worked out really well and I think it was mainly because of the planning that Habitat put into it. The whole event was run by one Habitat worker named Rob. He checked everyone in, told us what needed to be done, and then let us do it.
We actually had the choice of four different activities to choose from. Of course we could make cards, but they also asked each family to make a tile. Each family got one ceramic tile to decorate as they wished (preferably mentioning "families helping families" in some way). Currently, they are planning to build six houses in a small neighborhood. When the houses are done they are going to make a wall with all the tiles to commemorate the event. Sounded pretty neat to me. The other option was to build a house out of Popsicle sticks. At an upcoming fundraiser the houses will be used in groups of three or four as centerpieces on the tables to make a small "neighborhood". Cute idea I thought! The last option, truly boring for me, but something that needed to be done, was stuffing envelopes. Hey, when you've got a non-profit organization you probably have way more paper work than you do volunteers so I say get the help when you can.
We didn't do the envelope stuffing part. I think a lot of the adults felt that they weren't that artistic or crafty so they'd just stuff envelopes. Several people grabbed the envelopes before we even got to the table. My husband decided to build a Popsicle house with the help of our son. Meanwhile, I started on the cards. Occasionally I'd toss a card at my son if he wasn't helping Dad at the moment. He had a short melt-down about half way through and we had a little talk, but he moved on and by the end he personally carried the tile up to Rob because he was so proud of it. Part way through Rob started asking trivia questions to quiz the kids on facts that he had stated earlier about Habitat for Humanity. He gave the kids a "100 grand" candy bar for each right answer. His little joke since his job involves acquiring money for Habitat for Humanity.
The time went by really fast and before I was ready to be done, everyone was filing out of the basement. I think that if there were more volunteer opportunities like this one closer to home, we'd probably do it more often. I hope that one day I'll be able to find a cause for our family that is the perfect fit. I'm glad that Disney decided to do the promotion, although I worry that it sends the wrong idea. Volunteering isn't supposed to be about getting a big prize at the end. Still, I hope that we as a family will be able to look back on that one event in a church basement and say that it all started there.