I come from a family where giving back to our community and political activism were something that was considered a civic duty. It was both an individual and a family responsibility. Growing up, we lived in Venice and Topanga, CA. To my parents, discussing the day’s political issues, current events and happenings occurred daily.
The lifelong appreciation my parents instilled in me for charitable giving and community activism is something I’ll always deeply appreciate.
Now, I’m trying to figure out how to teach my own two children, ages 7 and 10, about the importance of giving to those less fortunate than they are.
The school my kids attend, The Willows Community School in Culver City, CA, has wonderful community service programs. The kids make homeless lunches for PATH, participate in beach clean ups with Heal The Bay and collect gently used books for the non-profit, Book Ends.
But, I want the kids to truly understand why we owe it to our community and ourselves to make a contribution that goes beyond what is required at school. The obligatory project here and there, which is quickly forgotten just isn’t enough. In light of our current fragile economic situation, I’m trying to help them understand they really can make a difference in the lives of others.
So far, I’m pleased to report, my kids are enthusiastic about community service. The other day, my husband suggested the kids go through their books and make a pile of books they no longer read for donation to the local library, which has had hours reduced due to city budget cuts. The kids ran to their rooms and emerged within about 15 minutes with piles of books they were ready to donate. Off to the library they went. When they returned, the kids were thrilled. The librarian was overjoyed to receive the books and thanked the kids profusely.
Getting my 10-year-old daughter to part with clothes she no longer wears is a “work in progress.” I gently remind her, there is a little girl out there somewhere who will be just as happy as she was when she first got the shoes or other item she is reluctant to part with.
I spent about a decade working in California state and local politics. I’ve done fundraising for political candidates and held political fundraisers at our home. This is what my parents used to do. I still remember them organizing anti Vietnam War protest rallies and hosting events at our tiny bungalow in Venice, CA. I always involve my kids in the planning of events at our house.
The proudest day in political memory for my family was the day President Barack Obama was elected. I’m African American. My husband is white. We’re a mixed race family, like the president’s family. I’m still awe-struck that the first African American President was elected in my lifetime, in my kids’ lifetime. Oh, and it’s noted that President Obama is one of the most skilled orators, we’ve seen in recent memory. Our house is filled with photos of the First Family.
My kids are just beginning to understand the historic event they witnessed when President Obama was elected. It’s my job as their mom to help them carry on meaningful American traditions of political involvement and community volunteerism that helped shape the person I am today. The same spirit of activism helped elected President Obama. And, who knows what my kids will do one day to carry on these traditions!
Christina Simon, 46, is the co-author of “Beyond The Brochure: An Insider’s Guide To Private Elementary Schools In Los Angeles”. She also writes the blog, www.beyondthebrochure.blogspot.com about applying to private elementary schools in Los Angeles and life as a private school mom. Christina is a former vice president at Fleishman-Hillard, a global public relations firm. She has a 7-year-old son and a 10-year-old daughter. Christina lives in Hancock Park, Los Angeles with her husband and children. She has a BA from UC Berkeley and an MA from UCLA.