Cotton Row Run volunteering has been a family event for three years now. That's right! Even at two and three, my kids were able to "help" stuff packets for the Cotton Row Run. See here to read about how my two year old daughter and I stuffed packets with safety pins--she counting out two and me counting the other two (since she was too little to easily count out four in her small hands). Last year, I remember the food provided for the volunteers kept them occupied for a lot of the time, and I don't remember them helping very much.
I really think it's okay for preschool age children to just come out and watch us doing the volunteering. I think it teaches them that we value running and we want to support it. It probably also teaches them that someone has to stuff their packets for them. It teaches them gratitude for others' service to them, even in the small ways. But this year (at ages five and four), my kids both really actually helped out. It was a milestone in our family, and one that I want to remember.
We went to packet stuffing around noon last Sunday after church. The kids hadn't had lunch, but we knew there would be food there. We also figured that, since it began at 10 a.m., some people would be leaving when we got there. We knew there would still be plenty for us to do. We'd also decided that once the kids started acting up (or even acting tired from the long morning at church), that we'd have to go home.
The kids settled down with their snacks, and we got to work stuffing packets. Some may find repetitive tasks like this to be boring, but I have discovered that I really enjoy the routine. We walked slowly around the tables, grabbing one of each item, and putting them into the packets. I enjoyed finding ways to stuff packets faster, like by repeating the line I'd just done before the next person made it around to that side of the table. I like being efficient!
After the kids got done eating, I asked my daughter if she wanted to stuff safety pins into the packets. This is usually a separate job done before the paper items get added to the packets. The lady who was doing the job (I think her name was Jessica) was so sweet and welcoming to my daughter. She took time showing her how to count the pins and place them in the envelopes and showed her where to place the completed envelopes. My daughter settled right in to that job. Every so often, Jessica would have my daughter bring the envelopes with the pins to one of the tables. My daughter loved that part of her job. She would bound up to the tables with great pride in the stack she carried. She loved it when one guy would say, "More already? Thank you!!!" The whole room seemed filled with such positive energy, with people all helping and complimenting each other.
My son wanted a job too, so I had him pull coupons off of one of those notepad-thingies. He took his job so seriously, carefully peeling each bit of glue off of each coupon until he had done them all. It must've taken him thirty minutes, but he stuck with it. He then got busy helping to stuff the packets. He came with me around the table and fumbled with the forms patiently . This was a little too hard for him, so he eventually got recruited by that nice man at the end of one of the tables to help put the stuffed packets into boxes and fold down the envelope tabs.
We stayed, all happily working at our jobs, until 3:00 p.m.! This seems like a victory for me. We were able to volunteer, to show our kids the importance of helping out, and to help our kids feel confident in their abilities of helping too (thanks to the other kindly volunteers). It is moments like these that make me proud of my family and proud of our city's running community too.
Good luck to everyone at Cotton Row tomorrow, and Happy Memorial Day!