Planting Seeds of Gratefulness and Service

My children and I visit a lake near our home often.   We love it here because it is beautiful and peaceful.  The fall colors this week are stunning.   There is a golf cart path along the lake, and as you travel it you marvel at God’s amazing creation.  

You know, my children lead a privileged life.   

They have a safe home, a big yard to play in, plenty of toys, and warm, nutritious meals on the table each night.     They have bookshelves overflowing with enriching literature, and the opportunity to play their favorite sports and take music lessons.

My husband and I have worked hard to make a good life for our children, but did we make it TOO good?    I always wonder if we’ve given them too much, afforded them with too many luxuries, or pampered them excessively.

We want them to be grateful for what they have and to develop a heart for serving others.   We don’t, however, want to “guilt them into it”.    A genuine attitude for service comes from a love for Jesus and others; it just naturally overflows into the lives of others.

Presenting our children with ideas and opportunities plants the seeds of service, and with a little tending I believe those seeds sprout and GROW!  

During this season of thanks I have been reflecting upon ways I’ve encouraged my children to serve and give, without me forcing them.   In the past year I’ve seen some precious moments that have motivated ME, and I want to share a couple of them with you.    

Packing Manna Bags

We live in the suburbs of one of the largest cities in America.   When we go downtown (which is about once a month, sometimes more) my daughter especially is very bothered by the homeless she observes. This past summer, while tailgating for a baseball game downtown, a homeless man approached us and asked us for food.  We gave him what we had left, but I could tell it BOTHERED my daughter for the rest of the day.
I told her we should always keep “Manna Bags” in our van – Zip Lock bags filled with crackers, bottled water, socks, energy bars, fruit cups, etc…   Also included is a message of God’s love.  This way we could give them out when we saw someone in need.  

(To find out more about packing Manna Bags, here is a great video.)
She took this a step farther:  we went to the store the next day and bought enough supplies to fill 20 Manna Bags.   We just so happened to be going downtown for a camp the next week, and she passed out each and every one of those bags.     
“The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me’.”     Matthew 25:40

Serving Through Music and Art

My children and I were part of a music and arts camp at a church this past summer.  On the last afternoon we all walked across the street to the church sponsored residence.  Elderly, disabled, and many people in need live here.    The children sang a concert for the residents and then made music and art with them.
The theme was “Christmas in July” – so we all rang Christmas Carols and made Advent banners.   I had a hard time seeing through teary eyes to just take a picture of my son sitting in my daughter’s lap as they helped an elderly woman play her choir chimes.     My sweet son kept winking at me and giving me a thumbs up, as if to say “This is great, mom!”.  
It was a day I will NEVER forget.   

With Christmas approaching my daughter suggested we go to a local nursing home and play piano for the residents.  She and I went last year and played in the memory care unit.  It made such an impact on her that she wants to go again.   God is good.  
“As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace.”   1 Peter 4:10

Of course I also must keep my children steeped in God’s word, to remind them whose they are and of their responsibility to serve others.   Our favorite devotion right now is Jesus Calling, by Sarah Young. This particularly appeals to my pre-teen daughter, and let’s face it:  this is sometimes a hard age to keep motivated!    

As we approach Thanksgiving, use this month as a time to present your children with opportunities for service.  Brainstorm service projects with them, and take advantage of opportunities in your community and church.  There are SO MANY in need our world, and we are called to be the hands and feet of Jesus.
Blessings to you for a month of gratitude and service!  

Mary is a former public school music educator and piano teacher with a bachelor’s degree in Music and a master’s degree in Educational Leadership and Supervision. She is now a homeschooling mom of two who seeks to learn and share about all things education! Her days are filled with music lessons, baseball practice, church work, and the blessing of time with her precious children. She blogs at Homegrown Learners and is a member of the iHomeschool Network.