Guest Post – Going That Extra Mile

I am thrilled that Shelley  from Mummy Bean, has decided to guest post for us today, to share with you her experiences of volunteering and to discuss what we can do as mothers to encourage our children to be charitable. What could sound like a preachy post is anything but, written in her usual refreshing style!

Before I get started I just want you to know that I am not a preacher, nor can I stand it when people force their opinions on others, it’s not how I roll!

So here goes…

When I was little I wanted to change the world,a little Lisa Simpson in the flesh.

It was all so simple to me back then, why can’t everyone just share what they have? Then no one would be poor, no children would go hungry and everyone would have a house. Or, even easier, why don’t the banks just print more money? Simple, right?A humble solution in my infant mind.

My thoughts then turned to actions.

I stopped eating meat when I was 10, although mum made me eat chicken… ‘You need protein, you’re a growing girl’ she used to say. This was a radical decision after my brother insisted on singing ‘lamb chops, mmm mint sauce’ every time we drove passed a field of sheep, to my horror and annoyance.

I sent my football shirts to Africa (yes, I was a tom boy for a while, who’d of thought it?) and sent shoe boxes of presents to others at Christmas time.

But then you grow up, and realise that life isn’t so simple. 

You get caught in your own world and ego and before you know it you’ve cancelled that £2 a month you’ve been giving to Oxfam since you started your first job, as you need it for beer money. You start eating meat again as it’s the easy (and cheaper) option when you move out of home.  And Christmas becomes all about the presents (received, not given). This was me.

Then, in my early twenties I went travelling, (in a non-posh ‘gap year’ sort of way, I was 23).

I had been working full time for 5 years and decided that I had missed out and needed an adventure.

I wanted to go to Thailand, and whilst looking through the options of beaches, sunbathing and drinking tours I found a volunteering trip, the supressed Lisa Simpson from my youth was overjoyed.

So I went, on my own, and joined a group of other likeminded (mainly younger) volunteers.

We lived in an Echo house together in a province north of Bangkok called Sing Buri.  There, we went onweekly assignments to help the local community.  Including teaching at a primary school and building at an orphanage.

Don’t get me wrong, I did the beach bit too, went to the full moon party and had some selfish fun, but it is the 5 weeks I spent in Sing Burithat I will always treasure the most.  Seeing the smiles, the politeness and the kindness of children who had no parents, no home and little else, will always stay with me.

Two years later and I’m now the proud owner of a beautiful baby girl, and since her arrival, I have pondered on how to impart morals, empathy and kindness as she grows.

With the recent earthquakes in Christchurch and Japan, and the Comic Relief campaign in full swing, it really brings home the need and importance of charity.

I do believe that charity starts at home, but it doesn’t have to end there.

I’m the first to admit that, other than my half selfish trip to Thailand, I haven’t done much for others since my Lisa Simpson days of past. Like everyone else, these are hard times.  We’re saving for a wedding, days out and maybe even a holiday in the next few years.  I don’t think we should all give up on our day to day dreams and treats for our family.  I will feel no shame in, one day, taking Belle to Disney World, but moving forward, I am going to start supporting a charity again, even if it is a few pounds a month.

I hope that Belle will grow up to appreciate what she has, be grateful, humble and charitable where she can.  But how do we encourage this in our children?

At Christmas Belle was only 6 months old, but I ‘forfeited’ the cost of one of her presents and instead bought an Oxfam ‘unwrapped’ giftfor the value of feeding a family on her behalf. I plan to do this every year,a small gesture, but I hope it’s benefits will be two fold.  Helping a charity and teaching my lovely daughter to be grateful and giving.

I’d love to know what you do to encourage gratitude with your children and how you introduced the much needed action of ‘charity’.