This weekend, a little girl came up to my car window at a red light. She looked about 7 years old. She was holding a Mickey Mouse bucket and asked me for money. I didn't see an adult anywhere nearby. It broke my heart. All mothers - whether we work or not - want the best for our kids and for the rest of the world's children. My kids were as upset as I was about this little girl alone in the street. I realized I must be doing something right as a parent.
How do you get your children to want to help others?
Today, my guest blogger is Lourdes Castillo de la Peña, a mother of four who has been focused on making a difference in the lives of women and children. Lourdes was appointed to the Florida Commission on the Status of Women, founded the Miami Children’s Hospital XOXO (Hugs and Kisses) group and serves on the Board of Friends of the Orphans.In 2010 she was honored by the Junior League of Miami at their annual “Women Who Make a Difference” luncheon.
Here is her take on how mothers can make a difference:
Children will follow your footsteps easier than they will your advice. Our children are watching our actions, and learning from them, especially when giving. Whether it is of your time, heart or money, there is never such a thing as “being too young to give of yourself.”
As parents, it is our job to teach the concept of giving to our children. This might be a tough topic to tackle, but important considering it may inspire a whole new generation of people working to support worthy causes.
In 1996, I was introduced to a church in Little Havana which had a small makeshift clinic to provide care for immigrants. I come from immigrant parents so I could identify with the need. I saw mothers with their kids and families lined up outside and realized the need to create a bigger, better clinic. Once I helped create a more substantial clinic, I feel in love with the community and saw a need to do more. I decided to help create the San Juan Bosco Christmas Food Distribution in 1998, a yearly food distribution in which my family volunteers its time in order to provide needy families a holiday meal.
The food distribution in particular brings back a lot of lovely memories. My children were born into this tradition. Sofia Victoria, my oldest daughter was only three months old when she began to participate in the food distribution. Today, at 12, Sofia Victoria looks towards the event every year, as it has a big impact on her and the rest of her family. My kids take the food distribution just as important as opening presents on Christmas Day. They have even gone as far as to recruit their classmates and their families to join us so that they can get everyone involved.
I suggest that the best way to teach children to contribute to their community in a positive way is to lead by example. Children are the future leaders of the world...they’ll keep the torch going after we’re gone. When you bring your kids along and involve them in your charitable outings, it makes a lasting impression on them.
Two years ago, I took my two eldest daughters (Sofia 10, Lulu 8) to Guatemala to visit one of the Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos (NHP) homes. NHP strives to provide a permanent family and home for orphaned, abandoned and other at-risk children who live in conditions of extreme poverty. I wondered, before going on this trip, whether it was right to bring my children along…whether they would understand. But halfway through the visit, my daughter turned to me and said ‘You know, Mommy, you are making these children very happy,’ and when you hear that, you realize that it’s worth every penny and minute you put into the cause.”
I also have taken my children to La Romana, Santo Domingo, where they adopted a community, and provided the neighborhood children with all the necessary materials for the upcoming school year including clothing, books and school supplies.
As a mother my duty to my kids is not only to expose them to all of the privileges one has in this great county, but also to allow them to see the world through different perspectives, in order for to learn to give back in adulthood.
My mom passed away this year. I had wondered if it was the right thing to have her at my house when she was so sick. My whole family was committed to taking care of my mother. There's not a book or schooling that will help a person understand what it's like taking care of someone when they are no longer fun, when that someone needs your attention.
Now, I know I would do it again. I gave my kids the opportunity to experience something special. I think they learned to enjoy special moments with people becausethey now know that at any moment, someone's body may give out and they might need to step in and help them.
My Mother's Day message is speak with actions. If you're good person, doing good things, your kids will follow your lead.