Some of my dearest memories of my grandpa transport me to simpler times. In addition to running a bustling service garage, he actively participated in different Portland groups within his East Deering neighborhood. Grandpa led by example, he devoted a portion of his time to volunteering at his church and the various organizations he was a member of. His philosophy was simple, community builds community. As my grandpa passed down this philosophy to my dad, it was only natural that when my sisters and I reached a certain age, we too would experience first-hand this philosophy.

I was seven years old, when I learned first-hand Grandpa’s community build community philosophy and the impact volunteering has on a stranger. Until that Christmas day, my holiday routine was quite typical: Santa and gifts in the morning, followed by an evening Christmas dinner with my grandparents. However, that year, my parents decided it was time for me to participate in a special annual event that held great significance for my grandpa. Each year, he organized transportation for isolated seniors in Portland to attend a Christmas luncheon. The event included a traditional homecooked Christmas meal, an hour of festive carol singing, and upon leaving, each senior received a wrapped gift to open at home.

Being rather shy, the idea of having to small talk with strangers gave me anxiety. What if they wanted to pinch my face? What if they smelled? What if one of them is mean? All the silly things a child could think of ran through my head. Yet, despite my fears, I knew I had to volunteer. That Christmas morning we woke early to open a gift under the tree and then needed to get ready to head to Portland to help with meal preparation and set up. The rest of our family Christmas festivities would occur after volunteering. Upon arriving to help prepare for the luncheon, my anxiety decreased because many of the volunteers were grandpa’s friends from the neighborhood.

As guests arrived, I was assigned the task of wheeling the pie cart around for everyone to choose their slice. This simple act transformed the event for me, turning nerves into enjoyment. Laughter and smiles filled the room, spreading genuine Christmas cheer. The guests were incredibly thankful. Some even got emotional, touched by the thought of not spending Christmas alone. By the end of the three-hour celebration, I understood why my grandpa made volunteering for the Christmas luncheon a holiday tradition. Spending time with my grandpa and witnessing his dedication to helping others was a significant moment for me. And that’s how, for the following eleven years, it became a cherished part of our family Christmas festivities too. My grandparents and parents made the time to let me experience the power of helping a stranger. They gave me a valuable and enduring gift – the gift of empathy, kindness, and a sense of generosity.

The Ripple Effect: If you are seeking opportunities for your children to be a part of volunteering, there are several youth organizations that foster making an impact in their community. For example, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Midcoast Leo’s (affiliated with Lions Clubs), Midcoast Interact Club (affiliated with Rotary Clubs), and Key Club (affiliated with Kiwanis). Youth groups expose kids to a variety of volunteering activities such as participating in town clean up days, volunteering at the fairs and festivals, and raising month for a worthy cause.

When we involve our children in volunteering and charity work, we’re not just shaping their character; we’re nurturing a generation of compassionate, socially responsible individuals who can change the world. These young hearts grow into adults who carry the torch of kindness, inspiring others and creating a ripple effect of positive change.

So, let’s empower our children in the Midcoast to be the change-makers and compassion champions of tomorrow. Let’s teach them that their small hands can hold great power, and their young hearts can ignite profound transformations. In doing so, we gift them the ability to not only navigate life with purpose but also to leave an indelible mark of love and empathy everywhere they go. Or as my grandpa simply put it – community building community.

Kindness is doing what you can, where you are, with what you have.