My teens spent a week as counselors at our church’s kids camp earlier this summer.
They spent a week in the hot Texas sun singing crazy camp songs, cheering and high-fiving a cabin full of young campers.
They spent a week tying shoes, passing out bandaids, and encouraging homesick hearts.
They spent a week putting others’ needs before their own.
More than once, I got a message from an adult at camp letting me know my kids were giving the week everything they had. They came home without a voice and a load of stinky laundry and fell in bed for a 5 hour nap.
That first night back at our dinner table, they begged to go on the youth missions trip a few weeks later to do construction projects for some marginalized people in a Texas community. We didn’t really have it budgeted or planned and my first response was to say no. I could tell my kids were disappointed.
Later, my husband said, “Honey, let’s rethink this. Our kids just spent a week serving others and instead of complaining about all the work, they are asking for more. They want to spend a week on an air mattress repairing homes for marginalized people in a segregated area. I know it will cost us, but this trip could be priceless.”
I thought long and hard about his wisdom. Because I know how physical, selfless work and serving others has turned my life upside down.
I’ve seen how working at the Mercy House warehouse a couple of days a week has got my kids thinking less of themselves and more about others.
When we told our kids we were reconsidering, they offered to contribute some of their own money. I knew something good was going to come from this.
They left on a Sunday and the first update from my daughter read, “Mom! We just finished our first day of hard work. Today was so hot and we are so tired! We are giving this lady a new floor, so we had to rip out the old one, leaving a huge hole in her floor and then add new supports, more flooring and then tile. It was a lot of work, but it was fun!! This lady’s house needs a lot of work, but we are just doing what we can. I miss you. Tell everyone I said Hi! Love you!”
So. Yeah, my kids are working their tales off this week as construction workers for the disadvantaged and they are having fun! Who knew?! Most importantly, they are being changed from the inside out and probably don’t even realize it.
We live in a culture where kids are often encouraged to do nothing and avoid things that are hard. We often don’t find selfless serving kids headlining in the news. But not only can our kids do hard things, they should. Here’s why.
6 amazing things kids learn through hard work and service:
- It’s harder for them to think about themselves when they’re busy thinking about others.
- It’s easier to be thankful for things they normally take for granted. Hello, a floor.
- It’s something our kids can feel really good about. Can you hear the pride in my daughter’s text?
- It’s something that is contagious they want to keep doing. See above.
- It’s always more fun than they think it will be. I have the texts to prove it.
- It’s become clear that working hard and serving others matters. I’ll let you know if this carries over at home.
I only got one text from my son all week. It read, “Mom, I love you. The week has been amazing! We just washed each other’s feet and now we’re at Dairy Queen. Serving rocks!”