Sunday, May 2, 2010


There is a club at my middle school that is called Helping Hands. Due to lack of funding they were recently fused with the Green club to form what some refer to as the Green/Helping Hands. And no, I am not joking. It is always an amazement to me how schools are a microcosm of society.

This is not the point however. Yes, I will admit, that at first I found the name somewhat cliche and it brought up for me images of Napoleon Dynamite's sign-language interpretive dance, every time it was announced over the loud speaker.

However, I was quick to find out that this club was one of the most popular at the school and beyond that- they really made a difference.

I saw them at work today. We were in our community raising awareness and support for poverty and specifically malnutrition and hunger. This issue is close to my heart. It was a moving sight to see “under-privileged” youth attack this vice of society with such animosity. And not only the students but the burnt out and stretched thin teaching staff that showed up en-force.
I have been thinking deeply lately about how to teach children to help. How can I cultivate a passion for serving others in the hearts of my students?

As a child myself, I thought helping was easy. I suppose it is because young people (and I know I am still on the young end of the spectrum- but I mean adolescent people) have an untarnished self-confidence. They see a need and address it. They have not yet learned to think? Do I really know what is best for this person? Would this person feel uncomfortable if I “exposed” their need by helping? Do I have the resources to help this person long term?

No, the child helps almost instinctively- they see a need they reach out and share, or comfort or simply do what needs to be done. And there is a beauty to that. However, how can we teach others, and how can we ourselves- help effectively?
What does it look like to be kind in our day in age- where people often want what will only hurt them and don’t want what they most need? Do we only help those who ask? Do we always help those who ask? I am baffled by the complexity of such a fundamental mandate- to help others. I was especially moved this week by a quote of Albert Scheitzer’s that I stumbled upon, “I don’t know what your destiny will be, but one thing I know: the ones among you who will be really happy are those who will have sought and found how to serve.” What a striking sentiment! And so, my thanks goes out this week to my dear friend(s) who organized and started this service project and to my students who are learning how to serve. Both are infinitely beautiful acts.


  1. Kate,
    This is a wonderful essay, and very heartening to read of such an initiative and the response to it. I particularly liked what you had to say about young people addressing need without second-guessing themselves or their motives. How very true! You have raised some thought-provoking, important aspects of what drives us or limits us in our desire to help others.
    Bravo to these students and their willingness to act!

  2. Katie...ever since I read this on Sunday the idea that children help without really thinking about the conciquences to their actions has stuck with me. Lots to think about and process especially as I am searching for a job where I can HELP!!!! Thank you.

  3. Deborah and Anne- Thank you for your encouraging and thoughtful comments. I was so heartened to read them. It is such a joy to think through all of these deep issues together. It is a great benefit of blogging. Thank you again.