My neighbor Joyce needs supplemental oxygen  just to breathe. She cannot go anywhere without it. She sits on her couch with her thin oxygen tubes connected through her nose and with this heat; it’s been especially hard on her. Today, she left me a voice mail that the postman had delivered one of our packages to her home. So when I got home from all my doctor appointments at OHSU, I told my 12-year-old that we had to go to Joyce’s to get a package.

“Maybe it’s the saxophone,” he lit up. He’d been waiting for it for sometime. With monthly rental prices in the 40 dollars per month range, buying one pays for itself after about six months.

As we walked next door to pick up the package, I suggested to my son that he get Joyce’s mail to help her out.

“Bill usually gets it after he gets home from work,” my son said. I conceded that he was right, but that I am sure Joyce would appreciate seeing her mail before her husband got home later that evening.

Then I added, “Augustin, it’s a way to reach out to our neighbor, to let her know we are thinking of her.” “It’s a way of serving right here where we are, in our neighborhood.”

My son got Joyce’s mail and she was so thankful to him as she thumbed through her mail. And Missy the dog was thrilled to see Augustin because Missy gets a doggy snack from Gus.

We sat and talked to Joyce for a bit. It makes her day when we visit her and it makes our day as well.

DSC_0289_7544  Providing opportunities for our kids to reach out to others, to serve, to make a difference in the lives of others beyond themselves is so important. And, to serve alongside them, just as important.

When my daughter was in high school we got involved with a ministry to Somalian refugees, helping with afterschool art classes in Beaverton. Through that outreach, we heard about some Sudan refugees who were sleeping on the floors of a tiny apartment in northeast Portland.

Would we like to help?

Yes. We met the family of eight, which included a mom and a dad, and six kids under the age of 14 sleeping in a cramped apartment with no furniture. We put out a call to our then-community group members at our church and were able to get them couches and mattresses.

And, it was close to Christmas time so our family brought them a Christmas tree and decorated it with them. That year, we invited the family of eight over for Christmas with my entire side of the family. All told, we had about 25 kids in our home around that Christmas tree.

DSCN3756_11217  The Sudan refugees became our friends. They’d take the bus over from North Portland to spend the weekend with us. They’d come camping with us; we’d take them to the beach for the first time. We celebrated Easter and thanksgiving together. It was a natural way to reach out as a family until they moved to Alaska four years ago.

I am praying about other opportunities to serve as a family. I’ve been on mission trips with my older two children, and I’ve helped with food banks and other outreaches through our church with our younger three. But, I’m looking for more opportunities. More regular opportunities to serve together.

I’m inspired by my friend and fellow writer mom friend Andee Zomerman who helps connect families with serving opportunities.

God will show us where to serve as we pray and look to opportunities out there.

And, sometimes kids need to see the opportunities right here in their own backyard. Next door. With wonderful people like Joyce.

[Previous in the series: Day 29: Find Mentors for your Kids]

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