Friday, October 21, 2011

One Potato, Two Potato ... Volunteering with Kids

As we were driving toward the volunteer day, and I saw a sign promoting the Arts at the Arboretum event. We usually go to this fun day in the park. Would my kiddo be mad when she found out we would miss it this year, for a "Potato Drop?" We had people coming for dinner, too, we were so busy, too busy for one more thing in our day?

No, I thought, and what we are about to do is way more valuable than getting some face painting and our dinner guests would understand if things were late to the table. Just shove over, mom guilt, I thought, I'm doing the right thing.

This was my kiddo's first volunteer gig. And not a small one at that. Forty-two thousand pounds of potatoes were waiting for us to load into different trucks, vans and cars for delivery to food pantries all over our city and surrounding area. Forty-two thousand pounds of food, and still, less than a pound of potato per person in need in our area; over 60,000 people food insecure, and that number is growing daily.

I hesitated, was my kiddo at only six really ready for this? Age six? I kept driving through my doubts. We headed to the volunteer event. No time like today to find out.

I got a great surprise. Not only was my kid well-behaved, but I watched her be the first one, big or small, to jump into the back of a truck and load sack after sack. Seriously, thousands of pounds of potatoes herself. Then, when done there, jump down and run to the next vehicle to load. Over and over. She was a rock star.

I was amazed, just glowing really. I learned that six is not too young to count, not to young to make a difference for others. As a mom, this has to be my proudest moment, but I sure can't take a bit of credit here. It was all my child's achievement, all her doing. It was also the love and support of the 100 strangers around us, cheering her on, helping one another with joy, and heart. The whole day was charged with the job of this village of people who took a beautiful Saturday morning to help put food on the tables of thousands. The worries I had vanished and I felt lighter, more sure and happy than I had in a very long time.

As a parent, I've worried more than once, "Am I teaching my kid the right values? Am I doing okay?" It's hard to explain to a child just how lucky she is to have food on the table each night, good food. All I can do is show her and hope she'll embrace the lesson.

We were done early. As we walked toward the car, I heard, "Mom, I want to go load backpacks, I want to help with bingo, why can't we go do more today?"

"Patience, kiddo." I said. "We'll do more of this. A lot more." And I fell in love with my child again, a hundred times over again and again. Six is not too young, neither is 16, 26 or 66.

Jessica at O the Joys asked me to help promote this fantastic effort: October 16-22 is “Make Your Mark Week” – A week of young people making a difference through simple acts of service. It culminates on October 22nd, Make A Difference Day. Not too late to get your family involved.