52 Weeks of Service

We made it! I originally thought I was going to use these service projects to teach my kids about giving love and looking outside themselves- and hopefully it did that. But there were so many other benefits I hadn't anticipated! I really had to do my research to find organizations that would allow children to help (most volunteer positions aren't open to 3 and 5 year olds) and in that research I was able to learn about so many needs I really had never noticed before. It filled me with gratitude for people I usually take for granted, like our mailman. It also opened the door to conversations about things I may not have thought to include my kids in- like the bake sale we did for Hurricane victims in Houston, I don't generally discuss natural disasters with my preschoolers. Another project took us to a different part of our neighborhood where Winston yelled "Hey! Why does that guy have pink hair?!" to a man standing a few feet away ... so we got to chat about how people look different everywhere you go. Taking flowers to my great grandmother's grave left a surprisingly lasting impression on them and is a conversation we have revisited months and months later. This resolution forced me to think about other people at a time of my life where I could have easily been drowning in my own chaos (having my third baby in 4 years). It really made me feel part of the community here in West Lafayette as I was able to see the good that so many people are doing all around me and get to share in it even just for an hour a week. I loved the way it transformed holidays too- thinking of how we could help other people celebrate it instead of adding yet another party to our agenda. Some projects were small, some were big undertakings, and some weeks we missed entirely. There were a couple times I wanted to quit because it was so tough to get my kids interested in a service project or because I felt like we weren't making a difference at all- but I am so glad we persevered. As I look back over the pictures I see how easy it is to share a little light with people around us. Winston's favorites were the free Popsicle stand in our HOA park and sending a hand drawn map and super hero cape to his friend who was in the hospital. Cosette loved giving some of her toys away to our refugee friends and it really was the sweetest to hear her explain to Winston how it made her feel happy to share. My favorites were gifting a live Christmas tree and the week where the kids each thought up a project for themselves completely unprompted. I can't say enough good about this year and the foundation it laid for us as a family- making time to serve will remain a top priority, I can't say I have the energy for another 52 weeks of projects but definitely a monthly project and I'm cooking up a special idea for summer.