Learning and Serving and Learning

Photo by Blake Barlow

This summer when school let out, 11-year-old Zach Bonner and his friend Raven started walking.  They walked 668 miles from Atlanta to D.C.  Zach wanted to raise awareness about (and funds for) homeless youth in the U.S., and on July 9th he completed his journey.  This was actually his third leg of a journey over two years spanning Tampa to Washington, all in the name of homeless kids.  You can read more about Zach’s journey here.

So why is it that some of us can’t even get our kids to walk the trash out?

Several years ago when times were a bit fatter in the U.S., Susan Crites Price published The Giving Family: Raising Our Children to Help Others.  Interestingly, in these lean days a renewed interest in giving has sparked new effort to teach principles of giving and generosity to younger and older kids, with some colleges even picking up courses in philanthropy.  I haven’t read Price’s book, but earlier this month a news feature shared some of Price’s insights on creating families that give and serve.

To way oversimplify, Price’s advice to parents includes:

1. Create expectations that your family is the kind of family who gives to others.

2. Find out what your kids are already interested in and capitalize on the potential of those interests and skills for generosity.

3. Don’t assume there’s only one way to be charitable.  Some kids are going to respond a lot better to giving time than money (my observation: the opposite reaction of many adults who prefer to hand over money as long as we don’t have to give our time).

4. Talk.  Couple acts of giving with conversation (essential to any kind of service-learning or experiential education model).

The kids in your home or your youth ministry probably won’t become little Zach Bonners, but their contribution is no less significant.  What they have in common is a need for support and feedback from adults around them who care enough to invest in teaching—through words and especially actions—generosity.  Adults who will help them learn, serve, and learn some more.