So, today I had the distinct privilege of being a chaperone for my daughter’s second grade class as they set out for the Oregon Food Bank to volunteer. You see, May 8th is Mount Hood Climb Service Day at her school, where every student from Pre-K to grade 12 does community volunteering to honor the nine people killed when bad weather overcame their hiking party on Mount Hood in 1986.

My daughter and I have volunteered at the Food Bank on several occasions before ourselves, but I’ve never been part of such a large group volunteering at one time, or a group comprised of such enthusiastic eight year olds. The kids quickly organized themselves around each two ton sack (massive sack I must say) of potatoes and proceeded to quickly designate themselves and each other with various tasks… baggers, bag tiers, runners to bring the bags to the crates. In a matter of two hours the kids had processed 10,555 pounds of potatoes; enough to feed 1,760 families approximately 5 meals. In fact, doing the math, each eighth grade volunteer supplied food for 150 families.

So why am I sharing this experience? Well for one I think it’s great to involve your children in activities that help them understand the hurdles that society needs to overcome. Oregon is one of the top two states in the nation in terms of hungry families. Telling our kids these hard truths is one thing. Having them work to help feed these families helps the kids gain a deeper appreciation for the problem, while being part of the solution.

The other lesson I learned, and one that I wish I learned a long time ago, is when faced with a challenge… just jump in do it. The kids today were much less concerned about who had what skill, whether they were better suited to a certain task, or whether one was harder or easier than another. They were, in fact, much more concerned with beating the other teams gathered around their massive sacks.

My promise to myself today – and maybe one each of us can make – is to continue to find volunteer opportunities for my kids, and me, that help solve problems while they learn valuable lessons. And second, to learn more lessons myself when working with kids. Observing kids with each other can teach you so much of what has been ultimately taught out of you since you were once a kid.