All parents know parenting isn’t the easiest thing to do. What’s interesting about that is parenting challenges often have nothing to do with kids. Raising kids, even sweet, kind kids, can be extremely difficult. We want so badly for our children to be good humans who are well-rounded, intelligent, fun and happy. But there’s no roadmap, instruction manual or equation to tell parents how to do that exactly. So, we take training into our own hands. I’ve worked to develop the spirit of giving in my sons by assisting the less fortunate. As homelessness is a major problem in the Los Angeles area, I’ve participated in the Feed The Homies project with my boys. It’s a family-friendly event that I also see as a type of community service for kids. Not only does it benefit the homeless, but it also instills some great values in my children.
I’ve always had a motherly instinct, even as a child. I always found myself looking after my siblings, and many of my friends will tell you I gravitate toward being a protector to them. That has translated into other areas of my life, most particularly my philanthropic efforts. It’s my nature to right social ills as much as I can, wherever I can. Why? Well, why not? I believe if you are able, you should help anyone in need. It’s not only a right as a human being; it is a duty. As John Holmes once said, “There is no better exercise for the heart than reaching down and lifting others up.”
I consider myself a fortunate mother in that my sons have always had a close sibling bond. In fact, my youngest son’s family nickname was once “Baby” because that’s what his older brother always called him. There was no greater responsibility for my oldest than taking care of his “Baby.” As they’ve grown, I wanted to make sure they carried that over to people outside of our home, including people who had less than we do. As a transracially adopted child, I recognize I was born into privilege. But my parents and grandparents taught me the value of giving back to others who didn’t have, and being deliberate about involving my children in community service for kids is a way I continue to instill those values in the next generation.
Along with our community service activities, I talk about their experiences helping others. There are deliberate conversations about why we feed other people and give out blankets, etc. As young toddlers, they may not have understood homelessness, but they did understand nobody should be cold or be without a house or family. Building empathy on their level has helped them to see others’ needs, and that has driven their hearts to do something meaningful in the lives of others.
Building Character Through Philanthropy
Developing my sons’ innate passion to care for others is my primary focus when investing in any type of community service. Done well, these ventures do so much more for their personal development, also. Serving at the Feed the Homies event helps to increase their sense of responsibility as well as their confidence. Whether it’s handing people drinks or a dinner roll, people are being nurtured by something my kids gave them. There’s a great sense of pride in that for them. As such, they take more personal ownership of their participation. I’ve seen the fruit of our involvement in our family time at home. There’s a renewed sense of what we have, what we can give, and what we consume versus what we waste. I love that as a mom, and I hope they carry these elements of leadership into every aspect of their adult lives.
I think a final by-product of community service is simply the realization that doing good feels really good! Helping others always fills up the emotional tank of those giving, and I’ve definitely seen that in my boys after participating in a service activity. While I’m sure everyone who visits the Feed the Homies events is grateful for us, I am truly grateful for everyone who helps to make that a success for my family. We love participating, and we are much better humans because of our involvement. And really, we all should strive to be that, both in our communities and as global citizens.