The Old Paths: Train them up

By Leslie Bray Brewer - Special to The Stokes News

Through my years of parenting five children, folks have asked me how to raise unselfish and giving kids. I first emphasize the importance of leading children into relationship with Christ. But being selfless and generous isn’t exclusive to Christianity.

So I go a step further. I tell them I believe we should train our children to serve others and volunteer as much as possible. Most kids would agree to assist at the local nursing home or rake a neighbor’s lawn for money. But would they do such tasks if they knew they would never get a penny?

Perhaps they would if they had been brought up with volunteerism and service as a big part of their lives.

I am in my fourth decade of parenting and have seen a continued increase in the number of children who think it’s “all about them.” Almost always, these kids are the products of overly-doting parents who are afraid to say no to them. An antidote to such spoiling is service.

Opportunities to serve others abound. Your local outreach ministry could use a helping hand, as could nursing homes and assisted living facilities. Community event planners are always looking for youth to help set up, take down, sing, dance, work a booth.

Or how about cooking a dish for a shut-in? Mowing the yard of a widow? Making a card for a deployed soldier? Baking treats for families at the Ronald McDonald House? Packing a shoebox or stocking for less fortunate children at Christmas?

Or perhaps we can jump on the most excellent bandwagon of “Random Acts of Kindness,” or as Evan Almighty (rent the movie) would say, “Acts of Random Kindness” (ARK). Teach your kids how to “build an ARK”… giving an encouraging note to a random person in the grocery store, handing a homemade blessing bag to someone on the street, paying the bill of a stranger at the restaurant.

After years of this kind of training, surely our kids will become unselfish adults who continue to serve their fellow man.

This week I took my kids to volunteer with other 4-H club members at the annual senior citizen holiday luncheon hosted by Stokes Senior Services. Our task was entertainment, but the 4-Hers began to carry food trays for the elderly people who might be shaky or have trouble walking. The children were thrilled to assist, and the seniors were very appreciative.

As I looked around the room at the cheerful, festively-dressed senior citizens, I couldn’t help but wonder if today’s youth—when they are old—will be as gracious and thoughtful as many of our seniors are. Most of today’s elderly were not pampered as children on the old paths. Most of them had to work hard, take care of younger siblings, think of others before themselves.

It was a blessing to be among our county’s senior population. One of their advocates in Raleigh addressed us, explaining how the senior citizen numbers have exploded, due to the aging of the Baby Boomers and the fact that people on average live longer these days. This burgeoning population is in dire need of volunteers.

How about your kids or grandkids? Many of our local seniors are on fixed incomes and could use a helping hand. Already they have to stretch their pensions to make ends meet; free help would be much appreciated.

When I think about people on fixed incomes and the way prices are rising these days, I wish more CEOs and upper-level management people had been raised to be selfless and generous. If they had been, I don’t think we would see the greed that continually milks our populace.

My hubster and I aren’t senior citizens yet, but we canceled our cable TV last week. We started out with a $79/month bill with Time Warner Cable just seven years ago. Each year, the “Amount Due” climbed precipitately—way ahead of the annual rise in our income. When our Spectrum bill soared over $180/month recently, we said, “No more!”

My Verizon bill has not seen the same rate of increase, but even it has risen to the point that I sometimes wish I could just chunk cell phone service. Unfortunately, in this modern era, we are slaves to technology and would be plunged back into the dark ages without cell phones.

As you know from prior columns, the hubster and I are already anomalies in the fact that we have thus far refused to give in to the Smartphone. Many of you loyal readers have approached me all over the county to tell me that you only “gave in” because your company required it OR that you still have a flip-phone. When I was swimming at Hanging Rock this past August, I heard someone yelling from way across the lake. It was my friend Mark Young telling me he still has an old phone, too. We holdouts against the latest technology are not alone!

But there are some things we cannot hold out against. Most of us have to have electricity and are virtual slaves to our power companies. When I heard that my power company was asking for a 16.7% rate increase, I was flabbergasted. I had just read that their top officials had enjoyed hefty pay raises, with the CEO earning over $10 million annually.

So an elderly widow who pays $200 to heat her house might see her bill increased by $30.40 each month? Well, maybe she can scrimp on groceries or skip breakfast to pay the extra. Is it too much to ask her to cut back on buying some of her medicines so that a wealthy company can get the money they need to clean up the coal ash problems they themselves created? Pardon my sarcasm. Why beg for justice if we are going to be charged for it in the long-run?

Oh dear—as my former pastor used to say, “I’ve gone to meddling now.” But as a volunteer who does local mission work and sees huge needs around the county, I must speak out for those who have no way to make their pleading voices heard.

Train up our kids to be selfless, generous and service-minded? Yep. We surely better do so. It will make a difference in the future of mankind. Perhaps we could even lessen corporate greed if a generation well-versed in volunteerism and random acts of kindness comes into power. I do believe in miracles, you know.

Leslie Bray Brewer can be emailed at Her blog is at

By Leslie Bray Brewer

Special to The Stokes News