Teaching Our Children About Community Service

By Mike Schwartz

From as far back as I can remember – being married to my wife of 10 years (and knowing her for 12) – we have enjoyed participating in various types of “Community Service” days whether living in New Jersey or Maryland. While it has a different, yet familiar name in New Jersey (Mitzvah Day at the J), and we did not have our two children then, it was and still is a day full of activities/mitzvot supporting the community.

Now that our two children are at the age where they understand what we are doing and why, we feel that it is important to inspire them and demonstrate that kindness and understanding brings the community closer.

While in Maryland, we have participated four times in Jewish Volunteer Connection’s (JVC) Annual Community Mitzvah Day where our children have enjoyed helping the community. They are naturally curious and want to know who needs winter care packages and why.

They ask many questions about why people don’t have clothes or food to eat, and we have explained how many small mitzvot like making trail mixes, sandwiches and coloring pictures can have more impact on the community than a single, large activity. Year after year, we have come back to JVC to support them on this important day. And after participating in the Mitzvah Days, it was an easy progression for the kids to want to do more.

This past spring, we participated in the JVC’s Good Deeds Day where we cleaned up a portion of the Western Run Stream in Park Heights. Our children, aged four and seven, could not have been more excited to help.

It may have had to do with the fact that they would be able to play near or even in a stream and use a cool trash grabber tool (yes, that’s the technical term), but they also understood why cleaning up the stream was important. This was not in their neighborhood. Nor was it really something that would have had a direct impact on their daily lives, yet they understood the impact to the community.

Maybe the direct impact is the way these events make it easy to teach kindness to our children. Simple acts of help go a long way.

Community Mitzvah Day, Jewish Volunteer Connection’s largest volunteer event, takes place on December 24 and 25 at sites throughout the Baltimore area. Learn more and register today!

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