We talk about injustice often as a family. It is not because I want my children to be more thankful for the things that they have, but because I want them to be aware that the way that they treat others matters. I want them to have a true and genuine love for the people around them. I hope that they will not only be able to recognize need but simultaneously realize that our job is not too look away but rather to ask ourselves and ask “what can I do to love those around me?” As a society, I believe we have trained ourselves to look away from the hurt and pain. Not because we don’t care, but simply because the issues of the world seem too big for us to solve. This summer, I hope my kids realize that even the smallest acts of kindness can help bring change in our community. I want them to know that although they are little, they have something to offer when it comes to loving others. I want them to know they can boldly look into the eyes of another knowing that each time they do so is an opportunity to love and serve. But just like anything else in our lives, we must practice the things we hope to make a priority. We must create time and find opportunities to love others. Below are 10 ways your family (or friends) can be intentional about loving those around you this summer!
Hand out popsicles at a local park
Food is often the best way to make new friends and start conversations with others. Something as simple as going to Costco and buying bulk popsicles can lead to an afternoon of fun, service and new friends! Don’t forget to bring a pair of scissors (to cut the wrappers), a bag for trash and some hand wipes to clean up the mess. A little treat on a hot summer day can go a long way.
Donate excess items
Are you spring/summer cleaning? Take this opportunity to donate clothes to a local women's shelter or toys to a local organization that provides resources to families and children experiencing homelessness. Remember, it only really counts as serving and loving others if you are donating QUALITY items. If you don't want your old shirt because it has a huge stain and a hole in the back... they probably don't either.
Create a lemonade stand and find a cause to donate to! First, do some research to find a cause you and your child are passionate about. Together learn about the cause and ways you can be a part of change. Whether you are raising money for childhood cancer or clean water in Africa, your child will care more if you take the time to do the research with them. Make some signs, grab a pitcher of lemonade and start selling! Not only is this providing an opportunity for you to serve, but every person who comes to your lemonade stand will be joining you in changing the world.
Cookies for neighbors
Bake your neighbors some cookies and take the time to tell them how thankful you are for them! Don't just leave them at the door. Wait until they are home and bring them a handmade card as well. Our family did this recently and in the process we found out one of our neighbors recently broke her foot taking out her trash. Now, each week our kids run over to take out her trash on trash day. Sometimes, it is just taking the first step that opens the door to serving in new ways!
Invite your friends and family to a pancake breakfast to raise money and awareness for a cause. Remember, this is truly not about how much money you can raise. This is more about reminding yourselves and others around you that together we can make a difference in the world. If you spend $30 on supplies and only raise $3.46 it is still a WIN! The goal is being involved, raising awareness and starting conversations. Ultimately, it is not about the money but time spent learning to love others!
Volunteer to sort food or clothing
If your child is old enough to sort through their toys, they can help sort food at a local pantry or clothing closet. Each year thousands of volunteers are needed to sort donated items. An afternoon of your time opens up opportunities to talk to your children about hunger and needs in your community. It a great way to talk about what it looks like for the community to take care of each other. It is beautiful to hear the pride in a children's voices as they walk away saying, "we sorted 1,700 pounds of food in only 3 hours!" We were made to work and it feel good to know that something as simple as sorting food can help someone else.
Use a National Day of celebration to bless someone else
It seems like every day I find out that about another celebration of a “National Day.” Whether it is National Donut Day, National Ice Cream Day or National Chocolate Day use it as a day to bless someone else. We all know that on National Donut Day you are going to post a photo of your kiddos on Instagram with box of donuts, so take the opportunity to bring buy some donuts for a friend that is having a bad day or deliver them to a local fire station and tell the fireman how thankful you are for their service. I can't imagine there is any wrong way to love someone on National Donut Day!
Never under estimate the power of a smile
Spend an entire day intentionally smiling and making eye contact with every person you come across. Sometimes we believe that changing the world starts with money or big gestures but typically it is the little moments that effect and change our entire day! Challenge your kids and yourself to smile more and you won't be disappointed.
Plan a pick up trash scavenger hunt at a local park
Make a list of trash items you might find at local park. Use a point system to assign a value to each piece of trash found (ex. Candy bar wrapper- 5 pts, coke can- 3 pts.) Make sure to give extra points for filling up the entire bag. Don’t forget to teach your children about the difference between items that are safe to pick up and items that are not safe to pick up (you can even pair a child with an adult if safety is a worry). Throw on some gloves and find yourself suddenly enjoying a little competitive game while serving your community.
Spend an afternoon at a nursing home
Grab your skip-bo cards, candy land and piano recital books and head to your nearest nursing home. Not only will your afternoon be full of fun but I promise that no one will be more excited to listen to your children play piano than the adoring grandmas and grandpas at the nursing home.