On July 15, 2013, a ceremony was held at the White House in Washington, D.C. to commemorate the 5,000th point of light awarded. This program, begun by former U.S. President George H.W. Bush, was meant to encourage everyday citizens to give service. In his 1991 State of the Union address he said, "We can find meaning and reward by serving some higher purpose than ourselves, a shining purpose, the illumination of a Thousand Points of Light ... we all have something to give."
This is reminiscent of what the Savior asked of us. In the Bible it reads, "Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house." (Matthew 5:14-15) Each time we serve others we let our light shine brighter.
As parents you need to seek every opportunity to teach your children how to let their light shine through service. But they cannot light their candle on their own. You need to provide that first match.
Begin by holding a family meeting. Share with your family the parable of the goats and sheep found in Matthew 25. When those on his right hand (the sheep) were told they had served Christ by feeding, clothing and visiting him his answer was profound, "Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me." (Matthew 25:40) Discuss with your family ways that you can help others. Then, select a project for each month that is feasible for your family according to your ages, abilities and means. The following is a list of themes and ideas to help you get started. Obviously you can change it to fit your family.
September: Back to school
Most children are returning to school around this time, collect school supplies for children whose families cannot afford them. Your children's school or school district may be holding a drive for this purpose as well as local retailers. Obtain a list of those items they are collecting and give your children an allowance to shop for items. To take it a step higher, have your children earn the money to purchase the supplies.
October: Fall clean-up
Use this month to help a neighbor or elderly family member to clean up and prepare her yard for the winter. Your family can help rake leaves, pull up a garden or help prepare a home for winter.
November: Share your bounty
This time of year provides an opportunity to reflect and give thanks for the blessings your family has received this past year. Part of giving thanks is sharing your bounty. Have a food drive to benefit your local food pantry. Our family has involved our neighborhood whenever we have collected food. We leave a note and bag on each door explaining what we're collecting and giving a date when to leave the food on the front porch. Many of our neighbors have expressed thanks for our involving them.
December: Secret Santa
Gift giving has become an integral part of the Christmas season. As a child I remember our family purchasing gifts for a family in need and secretly delivering them. It became one of my fondest memories of our Christmas celebration. We have tried to continue this tradition of giving within our own family. If you do not know of someone directly to help, contact the Salvation Army or find a local toy drive. Involve your children in the purchasing of gifts.
January: Baby, it's cold outside
As winter settles in, there are many who do not have the items necessary to keep warm. As a family organize a Mitten Drive and collect mittens, gloves, hats and scarves. Arrange to leave donation boxes at your house of worship, children's school or a local retailer. Be sure to get the word out as to what you are collecting. Choose an organization or group to help you distribute the items or find an area in your community where you can distribute them yourself.
February: Have a heart
In honor of Valentine's Day, find a way your family can contribute to heart health. Collect money for a heart research group or participate in a fund raising race.
March: Celebrate Dr. Seuss' birthday
Celebrate this favorite children's author by holding a book drive. Again involve your congregation or neighborhood and collect children's books. These could be donated to a library in your community or another organization that serves children.
April: Bloom where you are planted
During this month find someone who could use help preparing their garden for the summer. Trim bushes, mulch beds and plant.
May: Mother, may I?
In honor of Mother's Day, visit a nursing home or assisted living center and spend time with the women there. Prepare cards and maybe a small gift for each one.
June: Father knows best
Once again visit a nursing home, only this time take cards for the men. Be sure to spend time visiting with these special people. If your children are timid about starting a conversation, help them come up with questions to ask before arriving.
July: Home of the brave
Use this month to thank the troops who serve your nation. Prepare care packages to be sent to those in the military. Find an organization that can help you distribute these.
August: Dog days of summer
This is a perfect month to collect items for your local animal shelter. When you deliver the items you have collected ask for a tour of their facilities so your children can see how they are helping.
Taking time to teach and actively serve others will help your children become more Christ like. As you serve together, remind them of what Aesop said: "No act of kindness, no matter how small is ever wasted."