During the holiday season we are often overwhelmed with the sense of abundance that is portrayed in the media. The holiday ornaments go up in department stores sometimes even before the Thanksgiving turkey is cold. Nearly every commercial in print or on television works to get children fired up about a new toy or video game. For that matter, adults are targeted with ads for clothing, skis, and the latest techno gadgets available. It is precisely at this time of year that we can help our students see the world from a slightly different perspective by focusing on “service to others” both at home and at school. It can also help serve as a slight reset for adults as well.
Helping children see that there is much to be thankful for in their daily lives is a conversation that can happen at home and at school. Focusing on being thankful for family, health, shelter, friends and then on “things” helps to put perspective on the conversation. It is the perfect starting point to then be able to note that not everyone has enough food or clothing or adequate shelter. Even very young children can be exposed to the fact that there are people even in their very own community that fall into this category. It is important to brainstorm with students how we might help someone who doesn’t have enough to eat or doesn’t have enough clothing. It is very powerful for them to feel part of the solution. What could we do to help someone who doesn’t have enough food to eat or clothes to wear? Let them come up with possible solutions. These are areas where we as a community both at home and school can help out.
As a school, we can organize a food drive or a clothing drive and have our students participate by bringing in canned goods or clothes. As a family effort parents and children can go shopping together for food or clothing to be donated. Individual classes can “adopt” a child and collect toys or school supplies. During the holidays it is a perfect time for children to consider getting rid of a couple of toys or books that they no longer need and that can be donated. They might have some clothes that are still useable but they don’t wear that can be donated. Seeing the connection between home and school around service makes it that much more impactful.
Older children can brainstorm service projects that may be a bit more involved such as spending time at a homeless shelter serving food or making crafts and selling them, donating the proceeds to a particular organization. Some classes may choose to make holiday cards and take them to a senior center. Some senior centers love to have school groups come in and sing during the holidays.
When children see that service to others is important both at home and school we begin to build empathy and this consistent message helps build the lifelong notion that all of us can make a difference in the world.
“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” -‐Mahatma Gandhi