Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Summer of Service - The School Edition: Part One...

When planning our "Summer of Service" I knew I wanted to find projects that stretched our children emotionally but also some opportunities that taught them to give back to those who serve them directly on a regular basis.  So naturally, when thinking about this and where we should start our summer, school came to mind.  I chose school to be our first location to work together as a family for a few reasons.  One, it's familiar to the kids and a great place to get their feet wet while working for others they know, so they could start out serving comfortably.  Two, what kid doesn't love going back to school when summer is out and help their teachers...can you say "run in the halls?" And three, this school went above and beyond to accommodate and accept ALL of our children and our family when we were moving here last summer, has been incredibly flexible with us and our needs, and has continued all year long making sure everyone was adjusting and doing well.  It's an amazing community.  And even though it's a big sacrifice to have them attend here, it is worth it!  I cannot even imagine how much more difficult our transition would have been when we moved if we had not found this community to support us.

So with that I sent an email to our principal telling him of my plan and asking if there was anything we could do to give back to the school as the year was closing out.  He was kind enough to send the email out to all the staff and we were presented with two separate needs.  We took on both and split our time over two separate days last week.  After we were done with the first day, I took the kids to Target and let them pick out a new journal.  I want them to reflect on each project we do this summer and write about what they learn, what was hard or fun for them, and how they might be able to do something differently next time.  It was fun and eye-opening to read their responses to day one...which ended up being a lot more challenging and time consuming than we had anticipated, which was perfect!!

We were asked by one of the curriculum directors to help move old textbooks out from a storage room on the second floor of the school and over to the ice arena where they would be sorted through and given away to the community.  We had one mobile cart to use so we knew it was going to take several trips.  Sounded easy enough!  The first challenge was that the kids were so excited I had to stop them immediately to reorganize the effort.  I showed them how to stack the boxes and books properly on the cart so as to maximize each trip back and forth and avoid any catastrophic book spills on the way out of the building.

The second challenge was teamwork.  They had to figure out how to work together smoothly, and help each other out, without arguing.

The next challenge was sharing!  Everyone wanted to push the cart from one building to the next and we needed to come up with a plan so everyone could participate in that.

As we finished emptying out the storage room the rest of the building caught wind that we were there moving boxes and books and suddenly we were being summoned to multiple classrooms to pick up stacks and stacks of old books the teachers had yet to move out of their rooms.  Using our motto "serve with a smile" the kids took a deep breath and continued on working for two more hours as teachers kept adding their rooms to our list.


After a total of three hours of stacking, lugging, pushing, and pulling these kids managed to move over 1000 books from one building to another.  Can you see that tired haze in their eyes?

When looking through their journals it was cute to read what they wrote.  Here are a few of my favorite comments...

"I had a lot of fun but it took a lot of hard work and three hours of our day. Wow-Wee!" -Sarah age 8

"I don't know why, but looking back on it, the exhaustion felt awesome..." -Cameron, age 13

"Let me tell you, it was tiring and painful.  But then we went home and had some delicious chocolate cake!" -Lewis, age 9

" was a lot of fun and a lot of HARD work.  I think that it made mom a little stressed because the kids weren't doing it how mom wanted to do it, but it was all good in the end." -Emma, age 11

And there's my lighten up and let them go with it.  There's incredible opportunity for them to grow and mature during these times of serving God and others and I need to remember not to stifle that with my own thoughts and ideas.  They are perfectly capable of analyzing the problem, coming up with an idea, and executing it together to get the job done.  This simple afternoon of helping out has taught us all a little something about ourselves.  I am thankful that I was able to glean from it as well.  It was a good day.

"Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms"  
-1 Peter 4:10

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