Tag Archives: service

No Soup Today

Instead of a soup recipe today (don’t worry; we’ll be back tomorrow with more!), I’d like to say thank you to Sargent Shriver, husband of Eunice Kennedy Shriver, and the first head of the Peace Corps.

As you can tell from my biography, I was proud to serve as a Peace Corps Volunteer from 1997 to 1999 in Burkina Faso, West Africa.

That experience changed my life and it brought two of the most wonderful people I will ever know into my life for good.

In this blog we talk about understanding, appreciating, and respecting other cultures. I would probably have never written a word about these things if I hadn’t served in the Peace Corps. It was my first real opportunity to put service into action – and I hope I never stop.

As parents, we want to provide our children with the tools they’ll need to navigate the world. That’s a big part of why I write about other cultures: to help children understand the people and cultures with whom they will one day undoubtedly interact.

The Peace Corps gave me the ability to do that: to understand and appreciate people who – on the surface – may seem different from me and my family.

But another tool that parents need to provide their children is the value of service. The Peace Corps gave me that, too.

When we talk about service, it usually sounds so wishy-washy and goodie-goodie. But anyone who has ever served in the Peace Corps knows that you have to be a real fighter in order to serve.

  • You can’t let one bad day (or monsoon season) drive you away; you have to stay and fulfill your assignment.
  • You can’t let one mishap or negative social interaction define an entire people for you. Think about how Americans would fare if others did that to us!
  • You can’t let food poisoning or naughty students or an inability to speak the language or a total lack of knowledge of the country’s postal/banking/medical/telephone system derail you. You keep putting one foot in front of the other.

The Peace Corps taught me resilience; the capacity to fight for what I believe over and over; how to say bad words in Dioula and Bwamou; and how to say thank you in multiple languages.

So now I can say thank you (merci, aneechay, etc.) to you, Sargent Shriver, for your service as head of the Peace Corps. Aside from motherhood, it truly is the toughest job I’ll ever love.

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Gratitude Chain

gratitude chainSometimes it feels nearly impossible to raise a grateful child in America.

Everywhere you – and they – look are images encouraging them to want more; to clamor for the next big thing; to compete for possessions they don’t really need or want.

The advertising messages that besiege children at this time of year undercut the lesson in gratitude that parents and educators struggle to communicate year-round.

This is true despite the fact that the religious holidays that many of us celebrate this month are based on priceless things that are relatively free: family, friends, good food, music, quiet traditions, and service to others.

One way I tried to remind myself – and encourage my child – to be grateful for the wonderful things in our lives is by creating a gratitude chain. My son and I cut out thin strips of multi-colored construction paper and then wrote one thing for which we were grateful on each strip.

Our entries ranged from typical (we are each grateful for the other) to the relatively silly (we are also grateful for peanut butter cups) to the mundane (I am profoundly grateful for my reliable Toyota Camry!).

It also encouraged a conversation about what we value. I wrote down the name of my favorite book and urged my son to do the same.

He wrote down the name of his best friend – and reminded me to do likewise.

We can’t inoculate ourselves or our children from the blinding commercialism of the season. But for a few quiet moments we can focus on what – and who – we do have.

After we completed our gratitude chain we hung it up in our living room, next to the Christmas tree that come Christmas morning will tower over many beautifully wrapped gifts.

But I hope that for a moment we will be reminded that our real gifts aren’t laying under the tree; they’re found in every corner of our lives.

Corny, yes, and for that I’m grateful.

 

 

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