Service is the virtue that leads us to give
and give ourselves to others in a habitual, firm, and
decisive way. It leads us to give the best of
ourselves and our talents for the good of others.
concrete opportunities, to form the children in an attitude of
service, generosity, detachment, and self-giving, thus counteracting the effects of
• To help the children understand that they can
have a big impact on others’ happiness, and that what
they do or don’t do will have positive or negative
repercussions on those around them. To teach them a sense
of responsibility for others—both in society and in the family.
• To teach the children with our witness, work, and effort
that their participation and solidarity with others must be constant
attitudes, not just superficial or fleeting gestures. As parents, our
example will always be the most powerful lesson we can
WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO FORM THE VIRTUE OF SERVICE?
• Experiencing the joy and personal growth of true service is
an important and often neglected aspect of our children’s education.
We live in a materialistic culture that reduces service to
a few obligatory hours on the weekend, or to a
material gift grudgingly given. Our children are not given enough
opportunities to experience the joy of giving themselves to others,
and of making others happy. Without these opportunities, they may
not realize how important their personal initiative and actions can
be for the lives of others.
• Teaching children how to
have an attitude of service is a concrete way of
teaching them to overcome their natural selfishness. It is a
practical school of love. The life lessons learned from true
service can have a real impact on the way our
children set their priorities once they are grown up.
this virtue results in greater harmony in the family now,
and in society (and in their own families) later. A
well-developed attitude of service helps the family to become a
domestic church where the virtues flourish, and where everyone grows
together. At the same time, it decreases friction and squabbling,
which are usually the result of two selfish egos colliding.
• Cheerfully and willingly (not grudgingly) sharing my toys,
candies, personal things, etc.
• Being aware of others’ needs,
not locked up in my own little world.
my time, listening attentively to what others tell me.
ready to give the best of myself to help others.
• Helping at home or at school, even without being asked.
• Participating actively in campaigns or projects aimed at helping others.
Being the first to enthusiastically join in.
• Giving something good
of myself to someone I don’t know very well, not
just my friends or the people I love. Sometimes this
can be a smile, or a friendly word, or an
effort to include someone who looks alone and lost.
to think of the people who don’t “give” us anything:
the sick, the elderly, the handicapped… and being open to
discover their interior riches without judging by appearances or first
WHAT HELPS US TO PRACTICE THIS VIRTUE?
• Specific activities that
help children to forget themselves and take on concrete actions
or projects for the good of others.
• The example and
encouragement of parents who are already living (or striving to
live) these virtues. When parents are enthused about service projects,
they show their children that there must be more to
the experience than just the personal inconvenience of having to
get up early on a Saturday, etc. When Mom and
Dad are cheerful and enthusiastic about serving, their joy is
contagious and the kids find themselves enjoying the experience too
(even if they are adolescents and they don’t show it).
• Other role models, such as youth group leaders, slightly older
peer leaders, and positive friendships.
• Other virtues and attitudes help,
o Generosity, availability, and the capacity for
o Joy and kindness help us to be
o Camaraderie and participation, which help us to work
for the common good.
o Understanding, which helps us to
notice others’ needs and be sensitive enough to reach out
o Gratitude, which makes us realize the gifts
we have, give thanks for them, and share them with
o Magnanimity, which helps us to aim high in
our service to others.
WHAT MAKES IT HARD TO LIVE THIS
• The normal standard of selfishness and individualism that is
all around us.
• Our own materialism, by which we
tend to compensate for a lack of presence with an
abundance of presents. Parents: what we give to our children
is above all the gift of ourselves: our love, our
presence, our interest, our joy… this is what matters most.
Children CAN be happy without the latest gadgets.
own tendency as parents to satisfy the children’s likes and
wants immediately. This can be the result of a culture
that is too attached to comfort and convenience. We sometimes
forget that adversity and challenges forge strong character, and that
children can derive great satisfaction from having learned to overcome
an obstacle or achieve a goal with their own resources.
• Along the same lines, when we take away the
child’s opportunities to practice detachment (ie, when we are afraid
to say a firm and unyielding “no”), we stunt their
capacity for service. When this happens too much, children can
begin to acquire an attitude of entitlement and a sense
that their wants and whims are at the center of
everyone’s world. This subtle focus on self can result in
hardness of heart and indifference to others.
PRACTICAL WAYS TO FOSTER
SERVICE AT HOME
• Always recognize and encourage family members to
do acts of service to others.
• Be hospitable. Happily
receive friends and visitors, without behind-the-scenes complaining about the effort
• At the dinner table, teach children to notice the
needs of other people, so that they learn to offer
each other a refill or a napkin before the other
person has to ask. Teach proactive charity at the table,
and also discretion.
• Teach children to give their best when
they are visiting relatives or family friends: to smile, respond
courteously, show interest…
• Pray as a family for the needs
• When natural disasters come up, respond as a
family by participating in missions, special collections, social service projects,
• Listen well and teach your children to listen.
This means: not interrupting, not looking bored, asking good questions,
and not thinking of what you’re going to say next
while the other person is talking.
• As a family, thank
people for the gifts that we receive. Never complain about
what we don’t have. Instead, teach the children (by example
and through specific opportunities) how to work patiently toward their
• Invite the children to give part of their allowance
to a charity of their choice.
• Do a service project
on a regular basis as a family: work together at
a soup kitchen, go on missions, rake Grandma’s yard and
take care of her landscaping, put together gift baskets together
for the poor, visit a nursing home or an orphanage
together… some of these projects can be specific “father-son” moments,
one-on-one. Others can be as a family.
• Always praise your
children for the good acts they do, and comment on
the good actions of others.
“Jesus traveled throughout all of Galilee,
teaching in the synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the
Kingdom, and curing the people’s sicknesses” (Lk 6:17).