giving back

Taking Time to Enrich Lives Through Trees and Books

giving backtips for giving back

Last summer, I shared some ideas for doing acts of service involving the word "time." Some of them were pretty good, I thought, like the suggestion to vote for a community to receive a free fruit orchard through, Dreyer’s Fruit Bars, and the Fruit Tree Planting Foundation. They help towns all over the world be healthier, greener, more self-sufficient, and have improved air, water, and soil conditions (that's going on again right now, by the way). Let me, if I may, elaborate on a few of those good ideas from last year, in hopes that you'll take a little bit of time to help those around you.

First of all, I talked about, which is a site where you can earn "time dollars" for every hour you spend doing something for someone in your community. This year, consider doing a simple version of this with your kids. Encourage them to do something selfless for a sibling or neighbor, and tell them that when they do, they can earn "time dollars" from you. Maybe you can find or make and print out a few simple clipart dollars. When they earn a certain amount of time dollars, they can be rewarded with a night out just with you, a certain span of time exempt from room-cleaning, or a simple treat.

I also talked about taking your kids on a timed scavenger-hunt type of tour of a nearby library, to increase their awareness of what's available at the library and their interest in reading. Let me elaborate on that. For a pre-tween, tween, or young teenager, try composing a coded message that spells out that son or daughter's favorite place to go or thing to do when decoded. Using the library's online card catalog, select a few titles from each of the sections of the library they would be interested in (e.g. intermediate or junior fiction). Choose them purely by the author's last name, as the letters of that name can then be scrambled and used to make the coded message. Write down the Dewey decimal numbers of the titles and give them to your son or daughter. The first few letters of the author's last name will usually be noted with those numbers, and when the books are retrieved by him or her, they can assemble and unscramble those letters and spell out their favorite place to go or thing to do. They can be rewarded by going to that place or doing that activity.

For a younger child, you could show them the covers of three or four picture books and then help them find the books that match those covers. If they'll let you read those books to them, they can get a prize of your choosing. And for an older teenager, you could simply take them to a large city or college library and tell them to find as many resources about their favorite topic in a certain amount of time for a reward. In other words, they may not be aware that there are online journals, databases, and articles that relate to things they're interested in that are only available through that library.

Whatever you do, feel good about the fact that you're taking time to help enrich others' lives. It can be done easily and simply, with just a little bit of creativity and time.

What are some ways you can give your time to help those around you?

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