"As we work to create light for others, we naturally light our own way." - Mary Ann Radmacher
Making Kindness Our Priority
I was recently enjoying the PGK Facebook feed and took the time to peruse one of the timely articles shared by our great Communications & Outreach Coordinator in Boston, Rachel. Essentially it was a story and update on the Making Caring Common project at Harvard which did a landmark study a couple of years ago assessing children’s perspectives on what is most important to them. The results of which are still rather amazing to me:
“During the Making Caring Common survey, the young participants ranked what was most important to them: achieving at a high level of happiness (feeling good most of the time), or caring for others. Almost 80% of youth picked high achievement or happiness as their top choice.”
I try hard to raise kind kids, and most of the time they are, although not as frequently to one another as I would like, I must admit. I think most of us would say the same. So is something getting lost in translation? Do we think our messaging is saying that kindness and empathy are important but the achievement message that seems to drive our society these days is just louder? It’s hard to know. Regardless, what it does suggest, I think, is that we need to check in. We need to have those conversations. We need to do a gut check with our kids, and with ourselves.
“When we think about the kind of society and the kinds of communities that we want to live in, we need to be raising kids that can have empathy towards others and can act in kind and respectful ways.” Luba Falk Feigenberg, Harvard.
The great thing about kids is that it’s never too late to double back or redirect. They are malleable. They have ample ability to adapt and change and grow (which incidentally is why exposing them to service at a young age can have such a profound impact). They are hard-wired for empathy. We just need to do the work and to stress its importance. If we do that, the rest will take care of itself. (Oh yeah…and modeling the behavior is pretty important too!)
You can catch the full Making Caring Common story here.
Girl Scouts Give Back
By Rachel Hanebutt, Communications & Outreach Coordinator, PGK-Boston
“How is adoption a great option for helping homeless dogs?” and “Why is caring for animals such a big responsibility?” were a few of the tough, but important, questions the Girl Scouts of Eastern Massachusetts worked to tackle during their “Sneak Peak” with Project Giving Kids on September 12. Traveling to Camp Cedar Hill for this service-oriented day of events attended by hundreds of Boston-area Girl Scouts, I was able to directly experience the impact Project Giving Kids has on kids’ thinking about service and giving back.
In our two Sneak Peak sessions, over 60 Girl Scouts were given the opportunity to decorate quilt squares that would become three beautiful homeless dog quilts, a PGK activity inspired by Karma Rescue, an L.A.-based partner organization. This time, these quilts will be given to our local area partner, the MSPCA. Not only did the girls create message-filled, functional works of art, the girls and their leaders also saw the versatility, first-hand, of PGK activities and how they can use these kinds of opportunities to learn more about causes they care about.
After learning what PGK is all about, girls participated in a brainstorming discussion of what they could write or draw on their quilt squares that would inspire adoptions and “make dogs happy.” “Taking care of pets is fun, but hard,” one Girl Scout admitted, when asked about the responsibility of taking care of her own dog. Others chimed in with reflections on how they might individually go about Aid[ing] the Animals, one of the many cause areas the PGK platform highlights.
Troop leaders and parents were also given the opportunity to learn more about PGK, see PGK’s online Activity Finder in action, and discover the benefits of online registration for their Girl Scouts. “I’ve never heard of anything like this,” one eager mother told me; her response was not uncommon, as many of the adults were excited to see that PGK was taking the guesswork out of local service activities for kids.
It is our hope this one-time activity will inspire Girl Scouts and their troop leaders to continue using PGK as a means to find fun ways to make a difference in the Boston area. Many girls left the session asking “Can I make another quilt at home?” Indeed you can, and we hope that is just the beginning.
Why Dirt & Service Are Important For Kids
My kids don't get their hands dirty enough. Sometimes I wonder if things have really changed a lot in a generation, or maybe the difference is where I'm raising them. (I grew up in a rural college town and my kids have only known urban cores.) Regardless, I’m convinced kids need dirt. Last summer, I took my two oldest to the Fields of Green run by our amazing partner Food For Free, an experience they still remember. If you ask my older one, he could probably recite the number of bunches of scallions they harvested that day. If you asked the other, he’d probably just tell you he remembers it was hard work and he was hot…for two whole hours. (Get the details on how to get your kids involved in this project here.)
The point is, they remember. I have seen time and time again my kids recount one of the lemonade stand they have run, how much they raised, and which nonprofit they raised the money for and why; or a day when they cleaned donated toys to go to kids who otherwise might not have any to play with; or, again, the day they picked scallions in the hot, hot sun. As our time feels more and more limited with each passing week, it can be easy to put off these experiences, to push them aside until time “frees up.” The reality is, however, that time really doesn’t free up anymore. We seem to live at a pace and in a time in which more and more is offered and asked of us every day. We have to set our priorities.
The great thing about having these experiences with kids when they are young is how powerfully they are imprinted in the brain. At a time in life when new connections (in the brain) are being formed, the impact of getting out and doing something to make a difference with our kids resonates far beyond the moment of action, the full ripple effect of which is never fully known, much like the act of giving itself. The other great thing, the activity doesn’t have to be extensive or lengthy; it just needs to be impactful.
A full year later, we are still wiping our brow from those two hours with the scallions and the great Food For Free team. I think it’s time for a little more dirt.