"As we work to create light for others, we naturally light our own way." - Mary Ann Radmacher
Grounding Our Kids in Something Bigger
By Sara Schiff, PGK Board member, freelance journalist, and mother of three
I moved to Los Angeles from Toronto, Canada and my first impressions were - not surprisingly - how different it was from home. The weather, the car culture, the houses and the people, amongst other things. One of my biggest concerns though was, “How do I raise my kids in a city where the focus seems to be almost exclusively on fame, beauty and wealth?” I knew I would find people like me who were interested in more than that, but I was worried, nonetheless, that these influences which my kids were surrounded by would outweigh the grounding influence of family and close friends. So one December, in the midst of the holiday frenzy, when I heard a story on NPR about ways for families to give back to their community at a time when everyone was focused on what they were getting, I was immediately excited. After talking with PGK founder, Molly Yuska, I knew this was what our family needed to stay grounded in world of fleeting values. Since getting involved, we have packed bags of food for the homeless, sorted clothes for needy families, planted trees and cleaned up beaches. I have found that not only have my kids benefited from the numerous opportunities to volunteer, but my husband and I have as well.
The extreme gap between wealthy and poor in LA is so great and people live so cut off from one another that Los Angelenos tend to be very disconnected from anyone other then those who live in their immediate world. Volunteering has helped me and my family connect to people both in our community and outside of it, who we would otherwise not have had contact with. My kids also now have a better perspective on their own lives and how lucky they are, but also how similar people are no matter where they come from.
Raising kids is a constant challenge, especially given the pervasiveness of social media and the ways it is used to further bombard kids with superficial, selfish messages. So it’s clear to me that volunteerism needs to be a way of life and not just an occasional activity. PGK has helped my family consider our role in the world, and our responsibility to others, while also experiencing fun, family-bonding activities. My kids are still typical American kids at the end of the day, obsessed with their Instagram accounts and other social media, but at least every once in a while, they’ll admit that although getting a lot of “likes” is fun, at the end of the day, being good to others is what matters most.
Top Reasons to Make Service a Part of Your Child's Summer
By Rachel Hanebutt, Communications & Outreach Coordinator, PGK-Boston
Social and emotional learning. Empathy. Kindness.
All of these are “hot” topics in the news and also in recent child development research, but what makes them even hotter for this summer is how easy Project Giving Kids makes it for you and your kids to make giving back to others and learning these important skills a part of your everyday life.
Recent work from Harvard and other institutions has focused not only on how to improve kids’ achievement scores, but also on how to increase their social and emotional skills, some of which include being kind to other people. While kindness might not become the next video game or toy anytime soon, it is inspiring to think about how just talking about being kind with your kids might help to normalize giving back and being kind to others; they won’t think twice about doing something nice if it’s something they have always done.
Another reason to make service a part of your child’s summer is because summertime provides the mental break that kids need to actually enjoy giving back to others. Just as sleeping in and going to the swimming pool are that much more fun in the summer, doing special service activities and trying out new ways of helping people in the time off from school creates a great opportunity for kids to have fun while doing things for others.
While these reasons are not exhaustive, the most important reason for making service a part of your child’s summer is that it’s the right thing to do. With all of the suffering in the world today, every act of kindness and every service rendered is a step in the right direction towards a more just world.
Project Giving Kids makes summer service easy, simple, and most importantly, fun! Check out the PGK Activity Finder, which is great for figuring out what you can fit into your schedule and which activities your kids will connect with most.
Today I Will Choose Kindness
By Molly Yuska, PGK Founder
Two years ago, my family moved from the Boston area to Orlando. One could argue that the two cities my kids have now called home couldn’t be more dissimilar. In some respects, that may be true. In other ways, they are the same, as we all ultimately are regardless of where we come from. One of the most unfortunate realities of having lived in both places in recent years is that my family has now had to live at arm’s length through two senseless terrorist acts – the Boston Marathon bombings and now the night club shooting of Orlando, the single largest terrorist attack on US soil other than 9/11, another tragedy I sadly remember all too well. As a parent trying fervently to teach my children how important it is to see the humanity in the other people they encounter every day and to respond to human need when they come across it, trying to reconcile for them how hatred can be so seemingly “commonplace” at the same time is exceedingly frustrating, ostensibly contradictory at times.
Yesterday, as news of this latest tragedy emerged, PGK’s fantastic communications & outreach coordinator, Rachel, posted an article about kindness. In it, a teacher by the name of Marlem Diaz-Brown states: “I have learned that when you teach kindness and compassion to students and they really understand the concept, everything else falls into place. This should be the first lesson of every teacher.” The article further goes on to quote Dacher Keltner, director of the Berkeley Social Interaction Laboratory at the University of California, Berkeley, who states the physiological realities of kindness. Apparently being kind activates the vagus nerve, which communicates nerve impulses throughout the body which he said, “Tells us when I’m benefiting other people’s welfare, I get healthier and happier.” And then there’s also the release of oxytocin which calms the stress response. “If I practice kindness, I live longer, and now we understand neurologically why...what are the powerful pathways to happiness? The best we have is kindness.” (Article accessible at: http://bit.ly/25IIynS)
Whether the teacher be a parent, an after-school mentor, a grandparent or an actual teacher, I couldn’t help but think that our children today, perhaps more so than any generation that has come before it, need to be reminded of the power of kindness. They are bombarded with images and news stories and realities that remind them all too often of the other side of human nature. And yet, not only is kindness something that makes us thrive, individually and collectively, it is something that lies within all of us.
I want my children to live in a world where they don’t walk the streets in fear of what senseless tragedy may come next. I want them to walk the streets knowing that the power of kindness is stronger than the fear that drives these senseless acts. And the sooner we turn them on to their own power to create ripples of kindness, the better off we all will be. After all, kindness is a choice like any other. Today, and every day, I want them to choose to be kind.