In the spirit of these two weeks highlighting volunteerism and philanthropy on the blog, I have been touched over the summer by the work that children are doing to make a difference in the communities around them. For instance, I know of a first grader named Teagan Wamsley who wanted to do a fundraiser for her classmate struggling with cancer. To date, the auction has raised over $3,000. When I asked her parents, Ray and Melisa Wamsley what they did to inspire their daughter to think beyond the next episode of Paw Patrol, they agreed to share what has become Meaningful Connections’s very first official guest post! I’m so excited! What follows is some pretty awesome advice for the rest of us in the throes of parenthood. After all, it takes a village, right?
Melisa Wamsley on How to Inspire Kids to Serve
I’m not sure whether the key to bringing up service-minded kids lies within Nature vs. Nurture or if it is a little of both. I think both my children are “old souls.” In fact, I think my seventh grade son, Liam, fits this description even more than Teagan, my first grader. They have always been drawn to older children, think beyond their years, and have been compassionate little people from an early age. Maybe this is a result of being born to old parents, like us!
Ray and I try to lead our children to help others by our own example. We’ve volunteered since before they were born, and we’ve been including them in our events all their lives. But I truly believe the biggest influence on them and us as parents is our faith. We enrolled our children in a Christian preschool and daycare at the age of two. It was very important to us that our children be placed somewhere we felt they would be nurtured as well as have the opportunity to learn about Christ. Our exposure to Christianity was minimal growing up. Neither of our parents were big church goers–holidays only–but most of them did believe in God and shared that belief with us. Sitting down and reading the Bible did not happen for us until we were adults. I really think that the teachers and caregivers at their first school had a tremendous impact on helping us to instill HIS message in our kids: “Do unto others as you would have done unto you.”
Since that message has been with them since they were so young, our children tend to be the ones who mention to us that they want to do something to help someone else. Sometimes it is easy for them to lend a hand. Teachers tell us they do this often at school. Sometimes they help classmates with a problem, other times they loan out materials or supplies. Liam has even bought another kid’s lunch and gone out of his way to sit with a kid who sits alone.
Sometimes their ideas require more of them than they are old enough to manage. Teagan came home one day last spring and said that her friend had cancer and she wanted to do something to help him. She initially told me that she wanted to do a lemonade stand, but I reminded her that she only made $60 from her last one after expenses. She had no concept of how much cancer treatment would cost, so I explained that maybe she could think of an idea to raise more money.
“I like to paint,” she said. “I will sell my paintings. Maybe someone will pay $10,000 for one!”
I explained to her that as lovely as that thought was, it really wasn’t too realistic. I did suggest that we could invite others to sell their artwork, too, that she could raise more money.
“Okay,” she said. “Let’s do that!”
Once she created a few paintings, though, that was that. She became overwhelmed with all that goes into planning a fundraiser and her eagerness to help quickly dwindled. Then she developed stage fright at the event when it was time to thank everyone collectively for attending—God love her. But she did great getting everything together the day of the event, and she mingled with the crowd. Liam stepped right over to the table where the hors d’oeuvres and punch were and began serving on his own. I was really proud of both of them.
While keeping her momentum going was tough, I think Teagan and Liam both learned some big life lessons about what people can do for others when they ban together. I’m still not sure if it’s nature or nurture that creates a passion to serve in kids, but we’re so thankful for the spiritual lessons, support, and encouragement we receive from our community and our faith.
Thanks, Melisa, for your insight! Melisa is a co-founder and former board member of The Giving Garden Foundation, a non-profit organization that assists cancer patients with financial stressors. Melisa and Ray own Rave Design + Build. Their business page can be found on Facebook.
This post has been shared on The Homesteader Hop.