At the beginning of this year our family made a commitment to start volunteering together. Our vision as parents is to raise socially conscious leaders who are passionate about leveraging their leadership to positively impact the world. We call it #estherleadership based off of the historical figure, Queen Esther. This has become our daily prayer for our daughters: we pray that they operate as Esther leaders, prepared to lead whenever the moment arrives. In order to get them ready for the world that will inevitably need their leadership, we have to prepare with experiences that both affirm who they are expose them to the world’s need.
For those unfamiliar, her story is one of leveraging your life for the sake of others. She rose to the throne as queen through serendipity, the former queen angered the king and he sent out a decree to find himself a new queen. Esther was chosen from all the Persian empire and her uncle, a man named Mordecai, also rose to prominence through his acts of service for the king. When a plot is hatched to destroy her people, her uncle urges her to take action saying: if you keep quiet at a time like this, deliverance and relief for the Jews will arise from some other place, but you and your relatives will die. Who knows, if perhaps you were made queen for such a time as this. She ends up risking her power and her life in order to successfully save her people. Like Esther, we believe that to whom much is given, much is required. We want our daughters to learn early and often that they have a responsibility to those around them, to leverage their voice, power, and privilege to fight for those who lack the same.
So we decided this year to make a consistent commitment to exposing the girls to the world’s needs. Admittedly volunteering as a family, particularly with young children is a difficult task to pull off logistically. First, you’ve got to find a project that all of you can do together. That was our initial challenge. Many organizations don’t allow children under a certain age. It was really important for us to find activities for the girls to do together, as a family so that we could both cement memories and have discussions. It was also important for us to do work that we felt aligned to our values, so we’ve been looking for organizations and causes that speak to us as a family. Finally, since we’re trying to build this habit, it needed to be something consistent that we can do. When we set a goal, we schedule it and prioritize it and as the girls get older I can only imagine how busier our lives will become. That’s why we want to build the habit now, sort of like family movie night or family dinner. Everything gets added around these already built in staples, and hopefully the 3rd Saturday volunteering will become one of those staples.
In my efforts to find some great opportunities for us as a family, I came across some resources including: Doing Good Together, Pebble Tossers (the name i loved!), and Global Youth Service which had all those great ideas about starting projects on your own. But what I also discovered as we simply engaged in our first family volunteering effort was that the project itself mattered less than the actual time we spent. It turns out, the girls had a blast helping to pack 600 boxes of food for families at a local food pantry. There was music blasting while we worked assembly style with other families, and the girls played a small but meaningful role (they were responsible for putting the cereal in each box along the assembly line). After two hours (which flew by by the way!), they were tired and hungry (ironically) but also had smiles on their faces and had made some new friends along the way. Shout out to Action Ministries for knowing how to engage family volunteers really well.
As you can imagine, the van ride home also allowed for some good conversation about what we’d just done and why it matters. Consistency in exposure is going to be key here. As we build this habit of volunteerism, perhaps they’ll learn the lesson that most other servant leaders eventually find: you get as much out of giving as those who are on the receiving end.