A Day of Service

The Riccobono family sits on a park bench smiling.

A Day of Service

It’s Thanksgiving already! This time of year always makes me reflect on all I have to be thankful for and how my family and I can help others. My husband and I try to help our children understand how much they have to be thankful for and how important it is to give to those in need. Unfortunately it is not always easy to truly put these lessons into action. We are faced with obstacles—my husband’s busy travel schedule, our children’s sports schedules, homework, school meetings— and at times wanting to help but not knowing what we can do to truly make a difference. So when my husband and I heard there was going to be an event at our children’s school where families and staff would gather to fill bags for people experiencing homelessness, we jumped at the chance to put obstacles aside and participate with our kids to make a difference in our community.

I am sure every family who participated in this project has a story involving overcoming their own obstacles in order to arrive at the school on time. On this particular Saturday morning, our family’s biggest obstacle was our ten-year-old, who is absolutely NOT a morning person. Although he had been excited about this project the day before, it somehow had lost its luster overnight. Never mind that he was being awakened later than on a normal school day. Never mind that he had just been talking about wanting to help the homeless people he passes on his way to and from school. It was a Saturday, and it was morning! Two perfectly good reasons to stay in bed! Luckily I am used to our son in the morning, and by my great skill as a negotiator (or perhaps by luck) I was able to get him up, moving, and excited again about the service project.

Our next obstacle was hats and gloves. I will never understand how we can have so many hats and gloves in our house, how every day my husband and I remind our kids to put their hats and gloves in their coat pockets so they can find them, and yet, especially when we are trying to get out the door quickly, hats and gloves have disappeared! Luckily, on this Saturday, we were able to find the missing hats and gloves and were able to arrive at the school on time.

Once we arrived at the school, the obstacles disappeared. Everything was organized very well. We took a bag from one end of a table and walked down a line of tables, putting various items into each bag. At the end of the line there were materials you could use to draw and/or write a message to go into your bag. All of us enjoyed filling our bags and talking to the other families and teachers who were participating. Since my husband and I are both blind, we dictated messages to our children so they could write them for us. This gave them practice writing, and we were able to have conversations with them about how to spell words, which punctuation they should use, and what type of pictures they were drawing. I lost count of how many bags we filled, but by the time all of the supplies were gone, there was quite a large pile of bags ready to be delivered to people who really needed them. I think every family left the school feeling proud we had overcome our own obstacles and had done something to make our world a better place.

This story is not remarkable in the least. Yet it will always be a wonderful memory for me of a time my family was able to be of service to others. No one asked my husband or me if we were really sure we would be able to walk around the room and fill bags. No one questioned our daughters who happen to be blind about their abilities either. We were seen as any other family. As blind people, others are often more eager to help us, whether or not we need the help, than they are to allow us to help them. It was wonderful that, on this day, this was not the case. We were able to overcome our small obstacles to join with others to make a reasonably small, yet no less real, impact in the lives of people who need help. During this holiday season, I hope others will overcome their own obstacles in order to create their own memories of service.