When you hear the phrase “community service,” you may think of volunteering at a Food Bank or spending a Saturday cleaning up a park or road. You may also think of organizations like the Junior League or United Way, which bring together members to complete large-scale projects for various nonprofits in the community.
At St. Paul’s, we look at community service not only as volunteering with an established organization but serving in the home, classroom, and neighborhood. Our community starts small with the family unit. While it is expected that children do age-appropriate chores as part of belonging to the family, we also encourage them to go above and beyond what is expected, by helping parents with extra chores, taking care of younger siblings, feeding and walking pets, and finding little ways to bring joy to those around them.
In the Montessori classroom, this idea of service expands to helping younger classmates with coats and lunch bags, washing dishes for the class, and assisting in preparing snack for everyone to enjoy. Students completing these tasks are filled with a sense of pride and accomplishment and are met with an attitude of gratitude. Helping others is a two-way street and students learn not only to give help but also to ask for it when needed and accept it when offered.
As students grow, so too do their communities. What started a community of parents and siblings has now become family, classmates, teachers, and friends. When students join other activities, these new faces will also become part of their communities.
Incorporating service at a young age prepares children to meet increased responsibilities as they grow and teaches them the joy of giving. Giving of self is one of the kindest, most selfless acts we can take on. The joy and pride that we feel when we have helped someone else is how we know that we have done the right thing.
Once we’re all grown up, daily responsibilities and tasks sometimes cause us to forget the joy of giving. We can get caught up in the hustle and bustle of day-to-day living and not remember how wonderful it feels to bring someone a meal, lend an ear to a friend in need, or tackle a larger project, like creating a blanket for homeless shelter or mulching a playground for a local park. Community service does not have to be a grand gesture to make a difference and it can be done on a schedule that works for you. Service to the community is one of the founding principles of Montessori; without it, Dr. Montessori might never have been inspired to open a school for students of working parents who would not otherwise have received an education.
We encourage you to take some time this week to talk with your children about ways you can incorporate service into your daily routine. Perhaps you have a neighbor who would appreciate a home-cooked meal; a grandparent who needs a ride to the grocery store; a nonprofit you would like to spend time helping; or a stray cat needing to be taken to a shelter.
Whatever service you and your children choose to provide this week, we would love to hear about it! Please take a moment to leave a comment here or on the Facebook post to tell us what act of service you are inspired to try this week and how accomplishing it made you feel.