Helping Children Find a “Fit” in Public Service0
Although it may not seem immediately obvious, helping a child find a community service work that is a “fit” is a lot like helping a child find a sport. It may take a lot of experimentation to get it right.
I recently attended a dinner that celebrated six years of public service work for high school seniors. Starting in 7th grade, the girls honored at the dinner had each spent time at various non-profits over the years. Over the course of time, each had found one that resonated with her. For several of the girls, the time they spent working at the non-profit helped them decide what they wanted to do in college and perhaps in the future as a career. It was interesting to hear them speak about their process.
Several of them confessed to not entirely enjoying the trial and error of trying different kinds of community service work. They confessed to being dragged to try different jobs at different non-profits. They showed something else when they explained how meaningful it was when they found what they enjoyed—what resonated with them personally. For some, it was working with young children. For others, it was working in a hospital or helping terminally ill patients achieve last hopes and dreams. At the end of the girls’ six years, each seemed justifiably proud that they had made an impact in an area they care about. All of them said they wanted to continue volunteering. All of them communicated that they felt that they themselves benefited in the process of helping others.
Over the years, I thought nothing of driving my child to soccer practices, then to tennis, then to swimming, then to volleyball. I understood that my daughter needed to try all of these sports so that she could find the thing she enjoyed. I liked the fact that she was learning new skills and making friends along the way. I never thought consciously about finding the right fit for volunteer work, but this year I heard the “click” of a fit.
My daughter finds meaning in working with young children and is now initiating her own volunteer work and taking genuine pleasure in the work she is doing. The community service “click” felt a lot like the feeling I had witnessing that first real soccer goal. Watching that goal, I felt my child was realizing that she could be good at something. She was getting a taste of success and accomplishment that took work and the development of skills to achieve. She was learning to be a part of a team and was making friends along the way.
Helping a child to find community service work that is a fit is not always easy, but even the failures teach and are rewarding. A child learns empathy by helping others. With enough experimentation and tries, a child may even be fortunate enough to find that “fit.”
[AUTHOR: Hilary Doubleday]