In preparation for our school’s day of service to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s birthday, our first through third grade class (ages 6-9) studied the life and mission of Dr. King. Because my class is in the sensitive feeling years, I am always careful not to expose them to too much “reality”. To that end, our class discussed Dr. King’s dream for equality and world peace – without exploring the more brutal aspects of slavery and racism.
During our brainstorming session, the majority of my students voiced concern for the homeless population of both people and animals. I prayed about how to honor their concerns about these increasingly visible issues in our society, and how to empower the children to help in an appropriate way. As we discussed the needs of these people and animals, it became clear us that food, shelter, warmth, and friendship/ love are what is needed most.
We decided that on our day of service we would put together care packages for local homeless people with food, socks, and toiletries, and that I would distribute them throughout our community to local homeless people. They also brought in items in for the local food bank. Several of the children’s parents expressed an interest in handing out care packages with their kids. We talked about how one of the most powerful things we can do is to acknowledge the homeless people as human beings. They are often ignored. “Look them in the eye, smile and say hello.”
Children in the feeling years are often drawn to the little creatures of the world. You can tell someone
is in the feeling years (or is feeling predominant) when they exclaim “Aww!” upon seeing a photograph of a baby animal. We have been studying animals all year, and have had several experiences with the Lynnwood PAWS educational outreach program. For the animals, our class chose to make cat toys, catnip balls and homemade dog treats for the shelter cats and dogs. Since we visited PAWS last month on a field trip, we also decided to write letters thanking the volunteers for their loving work with the animals.
There is an expansive feeling that comes from serving others. After making our care packages, the class felt a deep sense of joy. Over the next few days I enjoyed hearing stories about the connections the children made while handing out their care packages. One student said, “The man smiled at me from the heart, and said God bless you.” Another said, “The homeless lady looked me in the eyes and said thank you. It felt good to help her. My family has decided to keep a few care packages in our car to share with homeless people, because lately we are seeing them everywhere we go.”
Dr. King would be proud of our student’s good deeds and loving acts of kindness. I know I am.