Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Acts of Service: The Great Neighborhood Clean Up

Welcome to the November 2012 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Family Service Projects
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have written about what service means in their families.

When I was pregnant with Lydia, I instituted mandatory family walks every night before bed. It wasn't always pretty, but we got it done. We live in a traditional neighborhood, complete (unfortunately) with hills. Our walks consisted of running (racing), collecting leaves, nuts, rocks and the like, and taking breaks for mom. We would always take different paths, sometimes they would be short, other times they would be long. Sometimes too long. Rarely did we get one just right.

I had noticed the bits of random trash on the sides of the road and even in yards, but sort of ignored it. Esther, my daughter, did not. She questioned this issue:
"Dad, why is their garbage on the ground?"
"Because people throw it out their windows while driving or just throw it down while walking."
"Why?" (if you didn't remember she's four, you do now)
"Well, people are lazy, they don't care about our Earth."
"I care!"
Enter conviction.

We started bringing a grocery sack with us on our walks and picking up litter as we went along. It was actually a helpful way to thwart the we're-half-way-through-this-walk-and-tired-and-crabby-fits we had grown accustomed to. My girls are so happy to do this! Which really makes me happy! We've been able to incorporate different things that we believe into this pick-up time. We talk about Creation and how God worked hard on our beautiful Earth. And how important it is to maintain the Creation.

The clean up didn't stop in our neighborhood, either. My children have grown increasingly irritated with random pieces of garbage everywhere - at the zoo, in parking lots, and inside stores. My kids are the ones who pick up after everyone else. And I am one proud mama.

With Lydia's arrival, we haven't been getting out for our family walk quite as often, but when we do, we don't forget our trusty grocery sack. The neighborhood is looking better all the time! My only caution to other families wanting to clean up their neighborhoods is to closely monitor what is being handled. People, unfortunately, throw all sorts of disgusting things away that you really don't want your children touching. You might consider investing in a cheap pair of child-sized gardening gloves as we did. Yes, they've touched someone else's chewed up wad of gum. Yes, they've picked up cigarette butts. Yes, one time Esther almost picked up something worse than both of those things combined.

We also help our children go through clothing, toys and household goods to donate to our local Goodwill or Salvation Army. We hope to instill different acts of service into our daughters as they grow. There are a few local shelters that we'd love to help them get involved in. And even mission trips when they get to high school age. We'll see what they're up for!

Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:
(This list will be live and updated by afternoon November 13 with all the carnival links.)
  • Acts of Service: The Great Neighborhood Clean Up — Sarah at Firmly Planted shares how her daughter's irritation with litter led to weekly cleanups.
  • Running for Charity — Find out how Jenn at Monkey Butt Junction uses her love of running and a great new app to help feed the hungry.
  • 50 Family Friendly Community Service Project Ideas — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama shares a list of 50 family-friendly community service project ideas that are easy to incorporate to your daily, weekly, monthly, or seasonal rhythmn.
  • Volunteering with a Child — Volunteer work does not need to be put on hold while we raise our children. Jenn of Monkey Butt Junction discusses some creative options for volunteering with a child at Natural Parents Network.
  • Family Service Project: Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina — Erika at Cinco de Mommy volunteers with her children at the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina, where 29% of the recipients are children.
  • Family Service Learning: Advent Calendar — Lyndsay at ourfeminist{play}school offers her family's approach to some holiday-related community service by sharing their community focused Advent Calendar. She includes so tips and suggestions for making your own in time for this year's holidays.
  • How to make street crossing flags as a family service project — Lauren at Hobo Mama offers a tutorial for an easy and relatively kid-friendly project that will engage young pedestrians.
  • Pieces of the Puzzle — Because of an experience Laura from Pug in the Kitchen had as a child, she's excited to show her children how they can reach out to others and be a blessing.
  • Appalachian Bear Rescue — Erica at ChildOrganics shares how saving pennies, acorns and hickory nuts go a long way in helping rescue orphaned and injured black bears.
  • Volunteering to Burnout and Back — Jorje of Momma Jorje has volunteered to the point of burnout and back again... but how to involve little ones in giving back?
  • How to Help Your Kids Develop Compassion through Service Projects — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now shares service projects her family has done along with links to lots of resources for service projects you can do with your children.
  • Involving Young Children in Service — Leanna at All Done Monkey, the mother of a toddler, reflects on how to make service a joyful experience for young children.
  • A Letter to My Mama — Dionna at Code Name: Mama has dedicated her life to service, just like her own mama. Today Dionna is thanking her mother for so richly blessing her.
  • 5 Ways to Serve Others When You Have Small Children — It can be tough to volunteer with young children. Jennifer at Our Muddy Boots shares how her family looks for opportunities to serve in every day life.
  • When Giving It Away Is Too Hard for Mommy — Jade at Looking Through Jade Glass But Dimly lets her children choose the charity for the family but struggles when her children's generosity extends to giving away treasured keepsakes.
  • Community Service Through Everyday Compassion — Mandy at Living Peacefully with Children calls us to Community Service Through Everyday Compassion; sometimes it is the small things we can do everyday that make the greater impacts.
  • School Bags and Glad RagsAlt Family are trying to spread a little love this Christmas time by involving the kids in a bit of charity giving.
  • Children in (Volunteering) Service — Luschka at Diary of a First Child reminisces on her own experiences of volunteering as a child, reflects on what she thinks volunteering teaches children and how she hopes voluntary service will impact on her own children.


  1. That is such an easy way to make a difference! The corner we live on is constantly barraged with trash - we pick it up regularly so we don't mow over it ;) But we've also taken a bag with us on walks - I'll make sure to make that a habit.

    1. Blech. My husband hates mowing over stuff too. It's so disrespectful to the Earth to chuck stuff out, but it's also disrespectful to your neighbors chuck it into yards! Thanks for stopping by, Dionna!

  2. I think that this is one of the easiest and most important ways to give back! Respecting mother earth by keeping her debris free is so vital to instill in generations to come. I love how you are making trash pick up a habit!

    1. Yes so easy and important! Our neighborhood is right next to a school, too, so I think it's a little worse. :/ Thanks for stopping by, Jennifer!

  3. Awesome! We are also hardcore trash picker-upers! People give us strange looks, but like your kiddos, mine is determined to clean up every green space we find ourselves in. I love the connection you have made for your kids with your faith. Love it!
    Lyndsay @ ourfeministplayschool.ca

    1. Yeah, I'm not a fan of the looks, either. Who do they think will do it!? Sometimes it is hard because we can be in a hurry and whatnot. But it definitely helps to make us (as parents) slow down! :) Thanks for reading, Lyndsay!

  4. What is it with kids and litter? My 5-year-old loves to pick up all trash, too! I like the idea of combining it with family walks to give him a purpose to go out with me.

    1. lol, I don't know! They love it! I should admit that at first, I was totally put off by my kids picking up garbage. :) It really does get my kids excited for walks! Some kids like toys, mine like garbage.

  5. Very cool! B is quite determined with cleaning up our house and throwing various things in the garbage, but we haven't run into him being curious about trash outside yet. What a great way to enjoy the outdoors, get some exercise, AND give back to your community!