Spend the summer doing community service

Whatever your summer includes, here is an activity you may not have thought of that could be a great thing to teach your kids: service.

One of the things I like best about summer is having my kids to myself.

Well, I kind of have them to myself. They have activities going on, get-togethers with friends, that type of thing. But without the constraints of school and homework, there’s more time we can spend together. That’s awesome because I know they’re only with me until they graduate; then, Poof! They’re out of the house and on to their own adventures.

How do you spend precious time with your kids?

Our favorite way to spend time together is being lazy. Watching the grass grow, reading piles of novels, spending hours glued to the computer trying to solve a Nancy Drew video game. Those are the best.

Day hikes and beach walks happen too, although I have to drag everyone out for those activities. We love being outdoors once we’re there, but it’s more of an effort.

Whatever your summer includes, here is an activity you may not have thought of that could be a great thing to teach your kids: service.

Family service projects are the best. A few weeks ago, my teen niece was coming from out of state to visit. We had come up with a list of fun things to do with her, and then I realized that my kids and I were scheduled to help decorate for a church dance. For about two seconds, I worried how to keep my niece entertained while the rest of us worked. Then good sense hit. When she arrived, I happily told her that she would get to help set up for the dance. She and my kids got to do the service project together, then celebrated by attending the dance. Win-win.

Service teaches your kids work, compassion, selflessness and (I think) hope. We all have moments when we wring our hands and shake our heads at how cruel the world can be. Giving service empowers us. No matter how bad things are, we can do something that makes a difference.

So, how do you get your kids involved in service? So many ways!

The easiest way is to get some trash bags, put on rubber gloves and go pick up trash by the side of the road. You could spend fifteen minutes or two hours, whatever you want to do. Your children might protest — will protest — but just ignore that. My kids start with complaining, but then someone will start singing a show tune, and snap! The job’s a game.

What else? Call your local food bank; these places run on volunteers. Or, see if there’s a Friends of the Library book sale coming up and sign up to help sort books.

Google “North Kitsap Trails Association,” and find a time you can join a trail work party. Then show up with pruning shears, rakes and work gloves for an hour or two.

Google “United Way Kitsap County volunteer opportunities.” Lots of service opportunities posted.

Try Justserve.org to find more local service opportunities. I saw one today for North Kitsap Fishline: “Kids for Kids Food Drive, helping children care for their community.” How perfect is that?

Take your kids to their school for an hour and help tidy the grounds. Things get pretty messy at the schools in the summer, and if you’re allowed to show up and shoot hoops when school’s out, no one’s going to stop you from pulling a few weeds.

Service doesn’t have to be earth-shattering, or painful, or time-consuming. My goal is to get the kids out once a week to do some kind of service in the community. What’s your goal?

— Check out more from Denise Roundy at thetrees andi.blogspot.com.