by Ken Williams
“This hand is just like mine,” exclaimed a sixth-grader at St. Michael the Archangel School in Leawood.
“So is this one!” echoed a classmate.
On the wall in the school gymnasium hung a poster filled with colorful handprints from an activity done by children who had received a meal at one of our Kids Summer Food sites.
Moments earlier, Meg McLaughlin, Catholic Charities outreach coordinator, had asked the students of St. Michael to match their hands with those on the poster.
It’s debatable whether what they noticed was as powerful as what they didn’t notice. They observed the hands were the same general size and shape as their own. They didn’t differentiate race or religion or socio-economic status. The hands were all alike; they were all neighbors. So, it surprised the students that the poster hands also belonged to neighbors-in-need.
At Catholic Charities, our outreach and advocacy team works together with parishes, schools and our community to introduce and incorporate social teachings into their organizations.
We are invited to collaborate within our community to provide resources to help others live this out in their daily lives.
We provide individuals the opportunity to be the hands and feet of Jesus through lesson planning, service learning, and small and large group presentations.
We are able to interlace classroom topics into hands-on service projects, whether that’s collecting food for the hungry at one of our emergency assistance centers, donating and sorting clothing for our TurnStyles thrift stores, or welcoming the stranger through our refugee program, among many other ministries.
While the visibility and outreach to all areas is gratifying, being able to step inside a classroom or visit with a youth group to share the significance of helping our fellow neighbor is particularly rewarding—especially when it’s kids helping kids.
We are blessed to afford youth an avenue where the act of serving others can be put into practice outside the classroom.
This summer, area children volunteered over 1,200 hours at our Kids Summer Food Program, experiencing firsthand how to live out a corporal work of mercy by feeding the hungry.
Research shows that children who are involved in service activities perform better academically, have increased self-esteem and are less likely to engage in destructive behaviors.
It also helps to develop an increased sense of social responsibility and a heart for “giving back” and helping others.
We’re prompted in the Book of Proverbs to train a child in the way he should go, so that when he is old, he won’t depart from it.
At Catholic Charities, we are grateful to partner with the parents, teachers and youth leaders who are doing just that.