How Were You of Service Today?


Last week I wrote about traveling with grandchildren and all the fun we have on long, long car trips. This summer we will be convening in New England to visit family — and our first grandson! — and take a day-long side trip into the Big Apple!

If you recall from last week's post, I mentioned a game called "And Then What?" where at day's end we will have Jain and Sofia think about what happened from the time they woke up that morning. Then we'll talk with them about the day's activities and ask questions. When did you get up? What did you wear? What did you eat for your meals? Who did you see? Where did you go? How did you get there? What was your favorite activity today? Their answers will be quite memorable, I'm sure, and we plan to log them in a journal of vacation memories they can treasure for years to come.

I have felt the need for a long time now to incorporate acts of kindness and service into our travels and reflect on those at the end of every day, too. Recently, I saw a blog by a woman named Ellen called Eyes on Heaven wherein she encourages asking our children three questions every night:

What is something that made you smile today?
What is something that made you cry today?
What is something that you learned today?

She poses these questions to her very young son at bedtime and, in addition to his responses warming her heart, she believes these conversations with him will pave the way for further mutual meaningful communication. She says his eyes light up at the first question, he gets a bit more serious at the second one and feels proud of himself when he's able to answer the last one. Their time together is such a precious and long-lasting gift.

She has so inspired me that we want to do the same with our granddaughters during their month-long visit every summer. What a marvelous way to capture each day's special and meaningful moments! We will add one other question, though, that we believe is of utmost importance:

How were you of service to someone today?

The response to that question alone, we believe, will instill in them the desire to think of others first — to not only know the Golden Rule, but to LIVE it. How will we encourage this on a daily basis during our time together? I'm so glad you asked!

Jain and Sofia have become quite aware of the importance of service as they get older and can grasp the idea a lot more concretely at their current ages. Earlier this year I sent them a list of service project ideas that are age-appropriate, and immediately they latched on to several of them. Among their favorites are walking the neighbor's dog, helping fellow students with homework, making pillowcases for hospitalized children, baking treats for firefighters, donating used books, DVDs and games to a children's hospital, and performing music for folks in a nursing home. We will continue to do service projects such as these while they're with us this summer, too.

While we're on vacation, we will encourage them to pay close attention to their surroundings. Who needs assistance? Who could use a bright and sunny smile, a word of thanks for a job well done, a hug of appreciation, some words of encouragement? We have no doubt the girls will probably seek out ways to help others in these ways and many more.

The highlight of our summer vacation will be welcoming our baby grandson into the family! Jain and Sofia are eager to meet their little boy cousin and will certainly, and most gladly, help keep his 2-year-old sister, Olivia, occupied while Mommy and Daddy take care of the baby. That will be a huge service to the family!

Living the Golden Rule and practicing the virtues will continue as it does every summer. We'll talk about the virtues, what they mean, and how to employ them in everyday life; play cooperative and virtue-themed games; measure their height on our Character Growth Chart at the beginning of their visit (whatever virtue is on the chart at the place marking their current height is the one they try to master during the summer) and again right before they go home. (Inevitably, they will have grown — I don't know what is in the food they eat here! — and acquired a new virtue to practice at home.)

Whether we are traveling or at home, we know we are doing our best to instill service to others in our grandchildren, and having fun in the process. Truly being of service to others is, after all, the best of all virtues, for it incorporates many others while it is being practiced: love, kindness, selflessness, courtesy, appreciation, caring, charity, cheerfulness, understanding, nobility, joyfulness, commitment, compassion, respect, purposefulness, responsibility, consideration, devotion, empathy, reliability, fairness, generosity, patience, gentleness, gratitude, mercy, helpfulness, honor, reverence, humility, sacrifice, self-discipline, thankfulness, sincerity, thoughtfulness, trustworthiness and unity. Imagine mastering all of these virtues in your lifetime!

Should you wish to play virtue-oriented games, I highly recommend the character-building card game What Do You Stand For? as well as Virtue Game. Virtues cards are a lovely way to teach the virtues with each card describing a virtue and suggested ways to practice it. There are many variations of these cards — Virtues Reflection Cards, Family Virtue Cards, and Classroom Virtue Cards — all lovingly illustrated and easy to use. The Family Virtues Guide is a wonderful book that highlights one virtue per week for an entire year. Most of these items, as well as virtues magnets, stickers, posters, buttons, and the growth chart mentioned above, are available from, a wonderful company seeking to promote a better world through character building and education.

Here's wishing each of you a happy and healthy, service-oriented summer vacation! Please share with us ways you and your family are of service to others. We so look forward to hearing from each of you, dear readers and friends!

Remember, as Grampy always says,