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FIRST-PERSON: Show thanks by helping others

JACKSON, Tenn. (BP)–What does Thanksgiving mean to you? Does it mean loads of turkey and dressing, pumpkin pie and the standard sweet potato casserole? Does it mean time to relax and spend with family and friends? Does it mean a special service for your church?

Regardless of how you celebrate the holiday, Thanksgiving is a time of year for counting our blessings and thanking God for His gracious gifts.

During this period of the year, the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving and the winter holidays, more interest seems to be placed on helping others. How do families get started in helping others and becoming involved volunteer work? Jenny Friedman, author of “The Busy Family’s Guide to Volunteering: Do Good, Have Fun, Make a Difference as a Family” (Robins Lane Press), suggests checking with your community volunteer center to match people and projects.

First, plan a family discussion as to how your family can become involved. What are the talents or interests of family members? Next, locate an organization that needs or trains volunteers. After you have completed these steps, choose an activity and designate a time for volunteer work.

Due to various reasons, legal and practical, many organizations do not want children to participate. Instead, develop your own list of age-appropriate tasks. Deborah Spaide, author of “Teaching Your Kids to Care,” says charity is innate. Children are born with the desire to help others. What is missing is the opportunity to develop this trait through exercise of the spirit. Compare charity to a muscle — it has to be stretched, challenged and worked in order to grow stronger.

The Bible tells us that loving and helping others is expected from God. The writer of Galatians 5:14 says, “The entire law is summed up in a single command: “Love your neighbor as yourself” (NIV).

Use the following “Helping Others” activities with your family:

For kindergarten through the fifth grade:

— Design and deliver holiday greeting cards for a nursing home.

— Collect stuffed animals and small toys for a family shelter.

— Read to younger children.

— Participate in a food drive with your church.

For grades six through eight:

— Volunteer at a soup kitchen.

— Get involved in a community garden.

— Sponsor a drive for small toiletries for prisoners.

— Tutor younger children.

— Promote mission organizations in your church.

For grades nine through 12:

— Train as a candy striper volunteer in a local hospital.

— Volunteer to serve on community boards that affect youth.

— Work in summer missions.

— Adopt a road or waterway for environmental purposes.

Helping others as a family unit, provides time for togetherness. In volunteer work, children learn to care for others, honor God’s commandments and build their own self-esteem.
Carolyn Tomlin writes for numerous Christian publications. Her husband, Matt, is pastor of Ward’s Grove Baptist Church in Jackson, Tenn.

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  • Carolyn R. Tomlin