Learning About Community Service
by Jay Davidson
In June, I spent a week as a member of the volunteer crew on the
California AIDS Ride. It was a six-day experience that saw 2,800 bicycle
riders and 500 support crew wend their way down a 575-mile path from San
Francisco to Los Angeles.
This participation in community service confirmed some of my thoughts
about the importance of such work. Here, then, are eight lessons that
parents can convey to their children about the value of working with and
- There is goodness in all people. Just give them an opportunity
to express it. In the case of this ride, all participants gave up their
time and put their lives on hold for a week so that they could work for a
- We are all equal. One might expect that there would be a
hierarchy in an event like this. Since the bicycle riders are the most
visible, they could have acted or been treated as the "stars"
of the week. But as a member of the food service crew, ladling out
anything from oatmeal to gumbo, I felt that each of us was seen as
equally important in our trek from one city to another.
- We are interdependent. To follow the previous point, I can say
that there was widespread recognition that everyone on the event -- those
handing out shower towels, the motorcycle patrol people, the crew loading
and unloading gear and tents -- was not only important but needed.
Furthermore, they were recognized as such.
- Cooperation has higher value than competition. Competition is
the struggle to prove you’re better than the other. Cooperation is the
struggle to make the world better - not only for yourself, but for the
other as well. All the people involved in the ride were there to make the
experience better for each other. We were part of a team, but not a team
where some people win and some lose. It was joyous to be part of the
- Relationships are more important than material goods. We lacked
our homes, our beds, and the comforts to which we have become accustomed.
But we were a group of people who were dedicated to making life better
for each other. The value of our relationships became more important than
the material plane on which we usually live.
- A little bit of humor goes a long way. There’s nothing funny
about waking up at 4:30 AM to prepare for serving breakfast at 5:00. Nor
is there anything humorous about riding more than 100 miles in one day on
a bicycle. But we learned to look for the humor in all situations so that
we could enjoy the adventure.
- We must adapt to change. At home, one can shower, eat, and go
to sleep whenever one wants. But on a journey orchestrated to move this
many people, there have to be set times for all activities. One learns
the schedule and adapts to it, rather than try to make it adapt to one’s
- We appreciate what we have. This is especially true when we are
faced with a situation in which we temporarily lack what we usually have.
We miss our family, friends, pets, home, and other aspects of our lives.
Being without those for a short period of time puts them into perspective
so that we can appreciate them all the more upon our homecoming.
How do these lessons apply to families? It serves children well when
parents help them to focus attention outside of themselves; get them to
think about things other than how their hair looks and what kinds of
shoes they are wearing.
These lessons are applicable to all community service projects. Families
can help to guide their children in a wide array of activities, including
tutoring a child who needs help, serving meals in a homeless shelter,
visiting elderly people, or running errands for those who cannot get out
of their homes.
Visit www.jaydavidson.com for more information about Jay Davidson.
Teach Your Children Well: A Teacher's Advice for Parents
by Jay Davidson
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