One of the things I love the most about my daughter is her loving, giving heart. At a very young age, she is able to see the need in a situation, and it hurts her heart. She is empathetic and wants to ensure that everyone and everything is taken care of. Her inner caregiver comes out.
I will never forget a particular family vacation where she was confronted with the balance between meeting someone’s need and enabling their problems. She saw a woman asking patrons at a small burger shop for money or food. She was homeless and I could see Tiny’s little heart break. I watched as her brow furrowed and she became thoughtful. We waited quietly for our to go order to be ready so that we could leave. I could tell she was burdened.
As we began to walk back to our hotel, she reached her hand into her purse where her wallet and every single cent she had saved for spending money was stored. I had to step in at that point. I asked her what she was doing. “I’m going to give that women my money.” “Honey, if you do that, you won’t have any spending money for the rest of our visit. Is that something you want to do?” She immediately responded “Yes.” Still, I asked her to think about it and wait until we could talk in our room. We had a talk about finding solutions that would meet someone’s need without furthering any problems or causing any problems for them, and I asked her to pose a solution – assuring her that if we could accomplish it, I would help her.
She thought about it for the rest of the night. She didn’t say anything. The next morning, we went downstairs for breakfast. Unbeknownst to me, she had figured out her own solution. She spotted a large bowl of apples in the lobby and filled her purse with little red apples until it hardly closed. I was wrangling my younger child and didn’t notice when she did. As we passed a sleeping homeless man, she took an apple from her purse and quietly placed it beside his head.
As the day wore on, I kept seeing her take apple after apple and distribute them to anyone who seemed to need one. The sneaky little do gooder had also squirreled a couple of bottles of water in her pack. She made sure to “rehome” them as well. I was so proud of her! I also watched her like a hawk and never let her get more than an arms length away from me on her Peter Pan like adventure. She didn’t need my help at all. She saw a problem and found a suitable solution.
I spend time with Tiny volunteering for several reasons. It empowers very young people to identify problems and pose solutions. It empowers one who is viewed by our larger society as a dependent to be a provider. It allows children to see adults giving of themselves – and allows them to give of their own heart and time. Most importantly, it creates a heart of empathy and service in our children – teaches them how to care for creatures less able than themselves (we volunteer at a humane society), and teaches them that even children can contribute to society in a powerful and meaningful way.
I spend time volunteering WITH my child because it is important for her to see a heart of service in the adults in her life. I want to be an example for her. I want her to see the good that can come from giving of your time and talents for the good of others. I want her to see that even when you don’t have material wealth (as few children do), you have time and talents and can always find a way to give back. Most importantly, I get to spend time with her in service of others. The time I get to spend with her as we walk dogs, snuggle puppies, clean cages, and all of the things that volunteers do, is precious to me. I love seeing her do something she loves, is good at, and feels good about. There is nothing so powerful for a Mother as seeing your strong little girl growing into a strong, giving young woman.
What do you do to cultivate a heart of service in your child?