In a world filled with the ever increasing use of technology and the decreasing need for human interaction, it is no wonder children are progressively finding it more difficult to empathize with other beings, especially ones in need of help. As a parent, if there was one lesson I would choose to share with my children, it would be the all-encompassing lesson of giving. Volunteering their free time or even making time to help is a way for children to learn how to give back.
Volunteering, for me, has always been a way to look at my own life differently. It has taught me to constantly remind myself of what I have and not what I don't. Volunteering helps children cultivate compassion, gratitude, kindness, respect for themselves and for others. Valuable life skills such as confidence, leadership, communication and patience are also inevitable benefits.
Children of any age can volunteer with parents or trusted adults. It is never too early to inculcate the value of giving in children. As in any good habit, there is a higher chance for children who volunteer from a young age to continue doing so into adulthood.
Of course, there is no greater lesson than walking the talk, hand in hand with our children. One such family is the Perigens who live in Boise, Idaho. With impeccable manners, 7-year-old Mariah Perigen sits next to me, eyes filled with determination, sipping on a cup of hot chocolate. She tells me that watching Pit Bulls and Parolees on Animal Planet is her inspiration for wanting to find a way to make a trip to New Orleans to volunteer for a couple of days at Villalobos Rescue Center. Villalobos Rescue Center is a rescue, rehabilitation and placement facility that works tirelessly to give a second chance to abused and abandoned pit bulls.
Mariah's parents have decided to use this opportunity to instill a sense of responsibility by encouraging her to save up $350 for the plane ticket by taking on small jobs such as weeding her neighbors' yards. In just 8 weeks, she has managed to raise $700. What Mariah doesn't know is that her parents plan to donate the money she earns to the rescue center and pay for all their plane tickets.
When asked what she hopes most for while visiting the rescue center, eyes lit up, Mariah says, "I hope I'll go on a rescue." Mariah's parents, Stephanie and Mike Perigen, are proud of her effort to achieve her goal. "She's a good kid. She's a hard worker," Stephanie says. I can tell that this is not just a one-off experience with volunteering for Mariah. It is a way of life for her family. Instead of asking for presents for her birthday, Mariah asked for donations of dog food for Boise Bully Breed Rescue, a non-profit organization that is run by volunteers devoted to re-homing unwanted bully breed dogs from shelters. She collected 11 bags of food on her birthday and has so far donated 19 bags and 84 cans of food to Boise Bully Breed Rescue.
As Yoko Ono so aptly put, "every drop in the ocean counts". I believe helping is an essential purpose of existence. After all, to be human is to be humane, characterized by tenderness and compassion, for living beings, especially for the suffering or distressed. Let's guide our children, the future generation, to engage in volunteering activities and to make a difference in this world.
Mariah, with the dog food that she collected and donated