Because Giving Makes Us Happier

NEVER DOUBT THAT A GROUP OF THOUGHTFUL, COMMITTED CITIZENS CAN CHANGE THE WORLD; INDEED IT’S THE ONLY THING THAT EVER HAS. | MARGARET MEAD

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In light of our post last week on teaching gratitude, we’ve been pondering even more ways that we can empower our children to be responsible, engaging, compassionate and kind-hearted human beings. When we make service projects a normal part of our daily lives we don’t simply teach our children strong core values, we demonstrate these values in action.

Often the actions we choose to take with our families don’t look like “volunteering”. We might help an elderly neighbor shovel their walkway. We might cook dinner for a friend who lost a loved one. We might donate our used clothing to the local homeless shelter. Through our creative efforts and these small acts of kindness, we are making our local communities better places to live. We are showing our children that giving of ourselves is good and science shows us that young children are happier when they give.

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When we come together to help others, children learn that this is a natural, humane response.

Two years ago, Kristi and her husband, Eric, volunteered with Feed JC to help prepare and serve dinner to the less fortunate at St. Lucy’s Emergency Shelter in Downtown, Jersey City. Kristi says, “It was such a humbling experience and we met some really amazing people! We felt that it was more important for us to give back on Christmas Day since there are so many wonderful people in our community who don’t have the opportunity to have dinner with their families and friends. The people we served were incredibly gracious. There’s truly nothing better than making someone’s day and then sharing a warm meal with them. Their bright smiles said it all and that filled my heart with so much love—more than any gift we could have received. We’d like to continue this with our daughter each year once she’s a little older.”

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There are many ways to volunteer based on the needs of our communities and your child’s individual interests. Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Collect toiletries or donate baby/household items you no longer use to the York Street Project.
  • Volunteer with Meals on Wheels in your neighborhood.
  • Grow herbs or vegetables and donate the produce to those who don’t have the space to garden, to new parents who don’t have time or to a hunger center.
  • Regularly visit a “grandfriend” at a nursing home, assisted living facility or in the neighborhood. Play games, do a craft together, teach each other a new skill, make up stories, exchange advice and build a real connection.
  • Donate your unused children’s books to your local public library
  • Foster a dog for See Spot Rescued or a cat for Companion Animal Trust.
  • Do errands, cook, or otherwise help out someone dealing with an illness.
  • Gather a group to pick up litter in your neighborhood and then recycle or throw away when you’re done.
  • Greet new people on your street with a small gift such as a houseplant or plate of cookies.
  • Organize a garage sale, stoop sale, bake sale, or lemonade stand and donate the funds raised to your favorite cause.
  • Volunteer to prepare and serve meals at your local emergency shelter such as Saint Lucy’s or Hope House.
  • Donate kibble, litter and blankets for our canine and feline friends at Liberty Humane Society.
  • Join Mommies Heart to Heart or other local volunteer groups who organize service projects in our community.

For more ideas check out kids world citizen.

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