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21 Strong

It is important to me that the girls volunteer but it is also important to me that they are not forced or coerced because that negates the very definition of volunteering.  When I think of volunteering I recall the Gilmore Girls episode when Paris is having a meltdown because her resume is not padded with volunteering and she frantically begins calling shelters at Thanksgiving and is told they have no need for her, which sends her further into her meltdown because how will Harvard accept her without this volunteer work?  

Sadly, this scene is all too true among many teens, especially those caught up in college admissions drama.  

"If you want to be important-wonderful. If you want to be recognized-wonderful. If you want to be great-wonderful. But recognize that he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. That's a new definition of greatness.

And this morning, the thing that I like about it: by giving that definition of greatness, it means that everybody can be great, because everybody can serve. You don't have to have a college degree to serve. You don't have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve. You don't have to know about Plato and Aristotle to serve. You don't have to know Einstein's theory of relativity to serve. You don't have to know the second theory of thermodynamics in physics to serve. You only need a heart full of grace, a soul generated by love. And you can be that servant."
The Drum Major Instinct, February 4, 1968 Atlanta Georgia
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Volunteering is not about collecting service hours for high school credit or meeting an obligation set forth by school or church.  Volunteering is about giving a part of yourself freely to someone else and discovering a bit more about who you are and what makes you great in the process.

Grace and Lilah have had the opportunity to volunteer at a YMCA that offers programming to families of children with Down Syndrome.  Most recently they participated in World Down Syndrome Day hosted by 21 Strong.  Grace was an aide to a 10 year old girl and Lilah spend the afternoon in the arts and crafts room.  Both had an incredible experience and both would love to do this again.  

I did put this on Grace’s academic resume, but only to highlight the many things she is interested in.  She is curious about working with children, utilizing her sign language skills, and perhaps teaching music.  This experience is relevant to her goals.  She learned a little bit more about herself while she gave a bit of herself to someone else.  There is such beauty in watching your child mature right before your eyes.  


  1. Wow, love the Martin Luther King quote and the Gilmore Girls reference. So true on your comments about volunteering. Such a big world out there with so many opportunities to help. Sometimes we have a hard time narrowing down what we can in do in our little bit of time that we have to give. Recently we have been watching a online sermon series that speaks a lot to this - pick something that breaks your heart. We are still working on this.

  2. I love this so much. And I SO agree. I have talked to Moms who talk about their kids 'volunteer' hours. Because it looks good on college applications. Keilee has volunteered hours and hours in her life and I have never kept up with anything. Because she is doing it out of love not obligation or to pad her application. :)

  3. "Volunteering is about giving a part of yourself freely to someone else and discovering a bit more about who you are and what makes you great in the process."

    Love it! My older son went back to public high school where they require 15 hours of community service in order to graduate. He did his "time" and that was pretty much it. He is pretty shy and he just hasn't found that thing that resounds with him. I hope he will eventually, but it needs to be something that he decides on. I'm not completely against what the school is doing, but I wish there was a way to make it really meaningful and not just something to be checked off.

    Meanwhile, my younger son, a homeschooled sophomore, has found something that he loves. He serves at the community meal every week (a free meal for any one who shows up). He has been doing it consistently for almost 2 years and hates to miss a week. He has also recently become a cadet with the fire department. Some of the public schooled kids are using that as their community service, but I may end up including it in his records as an extra-curricular.

    BTW, I am not saying homeschooling led to volunteering. Really it had to do with their personalities. They are very different. My older got a job with as little interaction with people and minimal chance of making mistakes as possible. Younger one loves interacting with people and is not worried about mistakes. I have suggested he get a job where his brother works (after his brother goes off to college), but he thinks that's boring. He wants the interaction that his brother avoids.

    My older did get accepted to college despite his lackluster community service record. It probably depends on where you want to go. However, I also think college admissions are on to the padding that goes on. They are looking for kids who show a real commitment and who are honestly interested in helping other people. The colleges will be looking for letters of recommendation, and I am hoping that my son will receive strong letters from the adults he has volunteered for.


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