serving others“I don’t know what your destiny will be, but one thing I do know: the only ones among you who will be really happy are those who have sought and found how to serve.” (Albert Schweitzer, Nobel Peace Prize 1952).  Can’t we all think of occasions when we have seen the truth of this in our own lives? As a result, we should seize any opportunity to include children in service to others.

Service means sacrifice.

True service costs you something. That “something” could be time, money or social capital. When we truly serve others, it costs us. Children instinctively know this. Help them count the cost.

See how this girl sacrificed social capital.

My friend’s 8-year-old daughter was talking about a girl in her class who kept trying to hang out with her and her group of friends, but no one liked her and no one wanted to include her. My friend told her this story:

girl cryingWhen I was in 5th grade, we had a girl named Cora who was new to the school. She came from a poor family, wore old sweatsuits to school and sometimes smelled bad. She seemed sad and lonely.

The kids would tease her in ways that–looking back now–were really mean. I didn’t join in on the teasing, but I wasn’t particularly friendly either.

One day, I was chosen to be one of the team captains for a Spelling Bee. Back in those days, the captains would take turns choosing people for their team until no one was left. Cora was always chosen last, no matter what the teams were for.

I decided today would be different. I chose Cora first, even before my best friend. I still remember the look of surprise and delight on her face as she jumped up to join my team.

Even now, in my 40s, that’s one of my proudest moments.

Consider ways you can show children how to take initial steps toward outward service.

  1. I help the child learn to recognize when people are calling for love or help. From time to time I ask, “Who do we know who needs a blessing today?”
  2. I use my childhood stories of standing up for what was right to encourage the child to walk away from doing wrong, even when friends do not.
  3. I encourage the child to be involved with ecology–preserving and restoring the earth.
  4. The child sees me perform spiritual activities (meditation, service to others).
  5. When the child talks about those in distress (animals, the planet, people), I find  non-profit organizations that alleviate the suffering and encourage the child to join or help.

Which have you tried in the past? What could you try this week? with which child?


  • Consider these ways you can show children how to take initial steps toward service to others. Click to Tweet
  • True service to others costs something: time, money, social capital. Teach children to count the cost. Click to Tweet