Opportunities for young kiddos to volunteer are hard to come by. Time of day. Type. Location. There are a lot of factors that can seem like roadblocks to giving it a try. And many just flat out have minimum ages (usually age 8). Yes we can give money to the kids to give to the homeless or groceries. Sure we can pick up a park. And bake food. And write letters. There are endless volunteer opportunities, but few in actual communities to do with young ones.
What do we do? = Me, Ethan, and Evy drive to a local elementary school in our district just 10 minutes from our house. It’s on Thursday, before the school starts. We get a list of classrooms, a cart with boxes full of 5lbs bags of food, and put the bags on the teacher’s desks.
Why? = Hungry elementary kids were stuffing food from school in their backpacks on Fridays because they didn’t know if they’d get enough food at home over the weekend. 1 school approached 1 church in 2010. Now >100 elementary schools in the twin cities are partnered with organizations and churches as sponsors. Now each family who wants it gets a bag of food for free.
How? = Our church sponsors an elementary right down the road a mile away. The church simply asks for volunteers just one day a week for 10 minutes. (we took 30 minutes, because, you know, I have 2 small kids that walk slow and get distracted easily. And a four year old who talks to everyone he passes).
That’s it. So simple! Ethan finds the numbers on the sheet and matches it to the classroom numbers on the wall. Both E’s LOVE carrying the food bags into the rooms (oh my and the teachers practically swoon seeing them do it). Oh and pushing the wiggly squeaky cart is a huge highlight. It takes us 30 minutes. It’s in OUR community! It’s helping little KIDDOS! We pray for them in the parking lot, that their families don’t go hungry and they do well in school. It’s meeting basic needs, being literal hands of Jesus, with no expectations in return.
As a parent, I find this opportunity and conversation very valuable because Ethan has a basic understanding about world poverty and needs. He knows about “people far away” that are not safe (we talk about refugees and drop off coats) or have no clean water (the kid’s bathroom shows this everyday) or can’t afford to go to school (compassion sponsorship). But this is a physical demonstration that many times, even “normal” kids can be hungry and have needs. That no need is too small or unimportant. That needs are everywhere. That “even as kids”, Ethan and Evy can follow Jesus and help people right next to them.
May this not just be an “activity” or “something on our calendar we do”, but our family lifestyle of service to other people. Living the life of a servant, just as our creator made himself a servant to show His love for everyone. Demonstrating the basics of discipleship, being a follower of Jesus, to toddlers can be simple. And it most certainly has to be intentional as parents!