Before having baby, I spent five years working in the non-profit sector as a volunteer coordinator. Over the course of those many days and weeks and months working with wonderful, kind-hearted volunteers, the one inquiry that always blew me away was when parents with infants or toddlers wanted to volunteer. I'd get calls from parents wanting to schedule hands-on volunteer projects to expose their children to volunteerism from a very young age. And I'm talking VERY young. I just didn't get it— what would a nine-month-old take away from this sort of experience?
Well, hello parenthood! Already I'm understanding where these folks are coming from, albeit with a more realistic set of expectations of just what we are able to do at this point.
A big part of being a parent is imparting a sound sense of values upon your children. This I know. And with Colin just ten weeks old, I know that we have plenty of time to accomplish all of this, since right now all he can say is, "Ahh, eeh, mah" and he has trouble finding his own hands.
But still, the first step toward teaching him to be a fine upstanding citizen seems to be modeling the behaviors we would like him to learn. Like being thankful for what you have (writing thank you notes for gifts), caring for others (checking on a friend who is sick), and kindness (not screaming at your husband when you are annoyed with him—being nice instead). And of course, being charitable and helping those in need.
That is where the tricky part begins. I certainly don't think Colin is ready to be serving meals to the homeless or marching on Washington for social justice. He doesn't even eat real food or walk yet. But it's good to start early and model the right behaviors, right?
Enter The ARK's Back Pack Project.
Today Colin and I shopped for school supplies for a 7th grade girl whose family would otherwise not be able to afford everything she needs for school. The ARK matched us up with her and is making sure that everything we brought in, from backpacks and binders to pens and pencils, gets to her before school starts.
Now obviously Colin didn't pick the colors of the folders, whip out his AMEX to pay for the supplies or drive us to The ARK, but while we shopped, I chatted to him about why we were getting everything, and then he came with me to The ARK to drop it off (and be fawned over by all my former co-workers— thanks guys).
I'm hoping we will make this an annual tradition, along with other projects and mitzvah opportunities, all in the right time as they become age-appropriate. My goal is that he will reach adulthood and think that this is something he has always deemed to be important, that generosity of time, money and spirit are qualities that are crucial to being a good person, and that this is something he wants to continue on his own once mom and dad aren't footing the bill or forcing him to tag along.