Raising a child with a servant’s heart

I recently read J. K. Rowling’s Very Good Lives after seeing it on display in the Tampa airport. I quickly took a picture of it, wondering how I could have missed a book by Rowling. I am a HUGE Harry Potter fan, and I have read all of Rowling’s other books as well. Monday when I was back at my computer at work, I jumped on the library website and reserved a copy of the book.

Very Good Lives is a speech J. K. Rowling delivered at Harvard graduation in 2008. It centers around failure and imagination. However, Rowling isn’t talking about the type of imagination that writers and artists have; she is referring to the ability to imagine what it is like to be in someone else’s situation. I was particularly struck by this quote:

“if you retain the ability to imagine yourself into the lives of those who do not have your advantages, then it will not only be your proud families who celebrate your existence but thousands and millions of people whose reality you have helped changed.”

What powerful words to students graduating from college! It got me thinking about my own life and how I came to have such a strong desire to serve. I served in the Jesuit Volunteer Corps for a year after college. Then I was a Girl Scout leader for 4 years in my late 20s once I realized I didn’t need to wait to have my own children. And I’m a regular blood donor even though I kind of hate doing it. I want to give back to other people.

How did my parents do it? How did they foster this servant heart in me? How do I pass along this mentality to my own child? Did the church play a large part in my desire to serve? Can I teach Christopher about volunteering even though we don’t go to church?

These are some of the questions that I have wrestled with. I try to teach Christopher to be grateful for all that he has in his life and thankful for the many things he has that others do not. He did give some of his books very generously to a book drive at daycare once.

I’ve read him books about empathy and being kind to others. One favorite is How Full Is Your Bucket? For Kids. We bought our own copy after borrowing it from the library. It introduces the idea of imaging what’s going on with someone else by seeing that everyone has an invisible bucket that is either filled or dipped into based on how things are going in their day.

Is 5 years old too young to start volunteering? What opportunities would be good for a 5 year old?

Certainly talking about the things I’m doing, like donating blood, is a start. But I need to find other ways for him to start serving.

One thing I’ve been thinking about doing with him is donating food when we grocery shop. There are barrels at our grocery store collecting non-perishable goods for the local food pantry. Maybe I should have him pick out one item to donate each time I take him shopping.

He’s also been very into cleaning up the Earth since the Earth Day unit at daycare in April. Jim has been suggesting that we take along a garbage bag on our next hike. That would be service to the Earth and to others walking the same trails.

What things have you done with your young kids to give back to the community? How do you teach your children to be servants? Really, I want to know. Please comment on this blog post.

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