Published on Santa Barbara Independent in Opinion
By Wells Hughes
Children need a viewpoint of the world that is bigger than they are. Parents focus on the physical, mental, spiritual, and financial health of children. I think we should be concerned equally with the health of our community.
We model good eating habits, help with schoolwork, encourage outside activities, and share religious beliefs; we need to teach how to build better communities.
In addition to creating a better to place to live, there are many reasons to build stronger communities. The most important one is giving children the feeling and power that they can affect their futures — the gift of self-responsibility and self-determination.
Involving children in volunteer work is the most effective way to teach them about a world that does not revolve around them. I volunteer for the Dream Foundation and the Teddy Bear Cancer Foundation. My daughter joined me on Flower Empower, a Dream Foundation program that prepares and delivers flower arrangements to homes, hospitals, and hospices.
Volunteer work need not be “heavy” to be meaningful. Children should choose the volunteer work. They’ll be happier and their tenure will be longer. Is your child interested in music? Sea life? Sports? Reading? An Internet search will yield many possibilities. Volunteer work need not be with an organization. There’s bringing in the trashcans for a neighbor or participating in the food train for a family in mourning.
Last year, I was honored with the Teddy Bear Cancer Foundation’s Humanitarian Award. I don’t tell you this to boast, but rather to share the feeling of joy volunteering gives me. My 14-year-old and I still volunteer together, and she has branched out into her activities of her own choosing. Watching her help create the world she’ll inherit is probably the most joyful feeling of all.