Mom Life,  Musings

Reverse Trick or Treating: Volunteering with Kids

How can you serve others when you have five young children? It can feel overwhelming to find a place where children are welcomed, and you feel comfortable as well. We have been blessed to find opportunities for service in several different areas around our community. We regularly serve with and support a local homeless outreach, which I hope to share more about in the future. But today, I want to share a wonderful outreach we have planned at the nursing home we have been volunteering at for years.

For the past several years, the kids and I have been going to a local nursing home in order to visit with the residents and help with arts and crafts. We visit once a month, and although we go to a unit of the nursing home that serves severely memory impaired residents who are suffering from Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia, we have formed relationships with some of them, who are able to remember us from month to month. These residents treasure my children, and we treasure them. We try to bring cheer for each season, and last Christmas, my son dressed up as Santa to visit with all of the residents!

I often say, in reference to visiting nursing homes, that there are few other volunteer opportunities for children where simply walking into the room brings a smile to someone’s face. Even though my youngest is five now, even when she was a baby, I would bring her in her stroller, and the residents would oohhh and ahhhh over her, and simply by being present, my little baby was serving others. It’s so simple, and so beautiful.

We all have different talents and abilities. So it’s to be expected that some of my five kiddos are more naturally comfortable interacting with the residents than others. When we have our family devotions before going to the nursing home, we discuss how, for about one hour per month, we don’t think about ourselves. We don’t think about how uncomfortable we might be or how things smell. We don’t flinch when someone tries to hug us, or touch our cheek, or squeeze our hand over and over. For just one hour per month, we think of others, and we try to bring them joy.

Since our visit in October fell on Halloween this year, I thought it would be fun to bring some festive cheer to the residents! After talking with the activities coordinator about the residents needs and abilities, we decided that doing a reverse trick or treat would be better for the residents, as they may not remember the reason for the candy sitting beside them even if we walked in and said, “Trick or treat!” And it’s so perfect for our family because of course, like most of us, we do not need more candy. We have recruited friends from our church family to join us, which will add to the fun! And we love another reason to dress up, use those costumes, and bring holiday spirit. This time, we will just be leaving a little something for them!
But what we will mostly be leaving is a smile on their face. They may not remember it in an hour, or in five minutes, or in thirty seconds, but for that moment, when they see my little princesses, and my Chewbacca, and my milk carton, and all of our friends walk through the door, they will smile. And that will make a happy halloween for us all.

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