Volunteers of all ages build houses for the homeless. They collect shoes for the shoeless. They glean farmers’ fields for the hungry. They ring kettle bells for those less fortunate. They read stories to children and play games and do arts and crafts with the elderly. There is arguably no better way to spend time—quality time that otherwise might be frittered away in idle activity—than to share it with others.
Giving is the Gift That Keeps On
A university alumnus told us recently that he tutors teenagers to help them prepare for college entrance exams. His students comprise all ethnicities and backgrounds. He recalls his very best success story. A young gang member wanted to pull himself up and out of his hopeless lifestyle. He agreed—even signed a contract—to attend weekly tutoring sessions. His grade point average was rock bottom, somewhere around 0.0006. After three years of hard work and commitment on everyone’s part, this ex-gang member graduated from high school with a full academic scholarship to Dartmouth College in New Hampshire.
What’s in Your DNA?
Those kinds of transformative stories create goose bumps. The fact is that there are countless potential life-changing stories out there if only there were enough people willing and able to volunteer their time. Tutors, builders, gleaners, bell ringers—civil servants all—can be any age. The only qualification is that caring must be part of a person’s DNA.
Enter your teenager! How many of us dads get irked at the time our teenagers waste? They may be staring glassy-eyed at the TV. They may be mentally numbed by a video game. They may be hypnotized by the characters dancing across their phone/pad/pod window. At the same time, they may be bellyaching that “there’s nothing to do around here!”
Teach Values—Be a Model
Dads (and Moms), take charge and strongly suggest that your teenagers volunteer their time for community service. Offer to do it with them. What better way to teach the value of giving back, of serving others! Start slowly. Suggest one or two hours a week. Provide some suggestions, but emphasize that anyone can come up with his or her own creative way of volunteering. It doesn’t have to be through an agency or organization. It can be arranged through your church or school. It can be an idea suggested by your family. Need a jumpstart? Call the retirement home nearest to where you live and find out if and how they could use some help. Maybe your teenager would be willing to call.
Imagine your teen replacing even a fraction of the time spent on Facebook with face-to-face service to real people! Talk about being a real friend!
To get started, simply Google “Volunteer opportunities in [location],” and this will take you to several links that provide a menu of organizations. As Gandhi said, “The best way to find yourself, is to lose yourself in the service of others.”