Community service is an integral part of being a Christian member of society. It should be as much a part of our lives as praying and reading our Bible. There really should be no question of when our children need to start serving their community, because they should be a part of what we, as parents, do in our communities. The examples we set during their childhood will go with them throughout their lives. When they see us taking food to a new mom or running errands for an elderly neighbor, they see community service at its best.
Becoming involved in our communities is an ideal way to spread God's Word and make a statement to the world about our convictions. Time can be a rare commodity for us moms, but with the flexibility afforded by "unschooling" and homeschooling in general, we can become involved in the areas that touch other lives even when we are busy raising our children. Whether it's reaching out to latchkey kids or the elderly lady down the street, the rewards for our families are numerous. Not to mention the impact our compassion has on the lives of others.
As our children grow older, they in turn will become involved in reaching out. There are many ongoing projects in most communities that families can become involved in, and many respectable places our children can volunteer their services. Not only do they learn about servitude, but they also attain many life skills and knowledge to be used later for college or career. Here are some examples. Many communities have "clean up" projects. Soup kitchens, food pantries and clothes closets are good places for our children to lend a helping hand and learn about compassion. Most libraries, hospitals and nursing homes welcome volunteers. Exposing our children to opportunities to work in their communities helps them realize that everyone can make a difference. Their work is important! Spreading the Gospel is important. Whether we do it by word or action, we do have an impact and so do our children.
Shelter . . . or Service
We need to protect our children from harm and bad influences, but not to the point that they never have a chance to develop compassion. The reality of the needs of our community should be part of our children's lives. When we see the homeless man on the corner or hear about the latchkey kids down the street, we sometimes try to fool ourselves into thinking that we can protect our children from the negative aspects of society . . . but in all honesty, if we see it, so do our children. They might not mention it to us, because they sense that it's a subject we fear discussing with them. Nonetheless, children do see the world around them, whether we want to admit it or not. We do them a great disservice when we don't use these opportunities to teach them discernment and compassion.
Our children discovered that some neighborhood children were home alone in the afternoons until their parents returned from work. They used this opportunity to reach out. Our oldest daughter would read to them every afternoon, and teach them about Jesus. I would look out from my window and watch them out on the porch swing laughing and giggling about the stories they were hearing. One day the oldest little boy (he was 8) told her that, other than school, he had never been read to. His father didn't speak English, and his mother was rarely home. She learned a valuable lesson about the little things in life that day. She learned not to take our blessings for granted!
We all need to examine our lives to find ways we can and do serve our communities. When we take a moment to reflect, most of us will be surprised to realize that we are doing a lot more community service than we recognize. Community service doesn't have to be an elaborate project we are involved in. It can be, and often is, the little things we do every day and the examples we set for our children. Community service can be something as simple as picking up the litter from the sides of our street . . . or reading passages from a book to our elderly neighbor who's losing his sight.
When we humble ourselves before the Lord not only do we bless others, but God richly blesses us.
Mary Ann Turner and her husband, David, homeschool their four children in Southern Virginia. She believes that everyday life's educational possibilities are limitless, and it's up to us to take advantage of the curriculum God provided.