A transformative summer of volunteering

This story was written by a parent of a Youth Volunteer who participated in a YVC summer program this year. To protect her son’s privacy, she has asked to remain anonymous.

I’ve always thought every child has wonderful qualities, each child is different and each child needs to have a way to express their strengths.  This summer my son discovered this for himself while serving with YVC.

The road hasn’t always been easy for him. Our son has anxiety and ADHD, has had trouble socializing with kids his age and tends to get really upset over small things.

We have always found many great things about our son, but he has not seen them in himself.  He is not as athletic as the other kids in the neighborhood, so he will often lose to younger kids in athletic games.  Since this type of play is almost daily, he tends to get down on himself.  This leads to arguing on his part, which makes him feel even worse about himself.  He didn’t have something he felt he was good at doing.

When he started volunteering this summer, he was able to do something that the younger kids were too young to do.  He started acting more mature.  He also showed a work ethic that I have never seen.  I was shocked that he never asked to stay home, even when it was 105 degrees and he was working outside.  In the past, he would have tried every excuse in the book to get out of working, like a migraine, which amazingly he did not have the entire time!

He had a very hard time showing empathy for others in the past.  His therapist said it was common with ADHD and his maturity was slow, so we would just have to teach him empathy over time. That all changed after he served with YVC this summer. He started showing empathy for others and rarely asks for material things now.

Before, he would ask and expect to get things immediately. He would ask for something and say, “It’s only $75!” and not understand why I wouldn’t drop what I was doing and take him to buy it. Now, he may point out something he thinks is nice, but then comment on how expensive it is and how long it would take to earn that much money or alternatives for what that money could buy.

For instance, he was walking through a store the other day with his sister and me. She saw something and said, “It’s only $50,” and my son explained how $50 was a lot of money. He went on to explain what many people could do with that $50, like the little boy we are sponsoring through our church.

His general attitude has changed. He is more responsible, mature and helpful. I don’t have to ask him to do chores—he will ask me if he can help me. If I say, “It would really help me if you would clean for me,” he says, “No problem,” and just does it and does a great job. Before, I would have to ask a million times, and then he would do a halfway job. I’d have to check it and have him redo it two or three times. Now, he takes pride in his work and does an amazing job the first time and is proud to show me.

I would love to have the program year-round. Some kids aren’t athletes—they don’t have practice after school. Many people ask, “So what do you do outside of school? Do you play sports?” They would have a great topic to discuss and be proud of: “No, I VOLUNTEER!”

This program really made him feel helpful, needed and good at something. He felt like he belonged to something, and he was proud of himself.  He was motivated enough to show up every day because he felt that his contributions were that important to the projects.

If kids are able to give back to their community, work in their community, see so many different areas, and help people in their community, it makes them respect all of those people and areas of their community.  Hopefully, they will continue to respect their community and feel connected as they grow.

Do you have a story on how service has transformed your life? Please email Lacey at lhelmig@yvc.org.