A few weeks ago I took my 8th grader, Ethan, along with 3 other 8th graders from our school to serve lunch at a shelter in our city. Our 7th and 8th graders serve lunch in groups of 4 weekly. Some people may wonder why you would expose your children to that side of society; the downtrodden, homeless and the poor. Our students do not have that question in mind. Our students have been learning since kindergarten that serving others is not an obligation of “service hours”. Serving others is what God calls us to do as Catholics and children of God. Our students do not do service projects for a pat on the back. They learn about the needs in our society and how we can be a part of the solution. Over the years they have been taught empathy for the needy, disabled, hungry, abused, homeless, the sick and the elderly. These are not just school projects these are their neighbors, friends, parish members and community members they are choosing to help in different ways each year.
As the service coordinator for our school my goal is for these students to have a glimpse of those that Jesus taught us about that need our love and attention. Our students are blessed in so many ways to attend a Catholic School however they are not exposed to many of life’s injustices. By bringing speakers from local organizations into the classroom and taking them on service fieldtrips, our students are experiencing, in an age appropriate way, different ways of life. The reason I have coordinated this service learning program is to give our students the knowledge of the problems, empathy for the people and a way to serve those in need not just in school but for a lifetime. I want them to have a burning desire to help others and a way to do it even if they are only children.
The teachers, volunteer parents and myself are giving the students the experience to learn how to serve others. But it is the Holy Spirit that will give them the desire to continue serving for a lifetime. I pray that they will be open to that calling forever. They are not just serving a homeless man when they put the salad on their plate they are feeding the living body of Christ.