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Generosity is contagious

Generosity is contagious

Catch the service-above-self bug

February 14th, 2011 by Jenny Flatt, For the News Tribune in News

We often think of community service as a major task, commitment or something we need to plan to accomplish. However, we overlook the small things that we can do for one another to promote a spirit of good will. These past few weeks have shown our community that the need is very large, especially during snow events large enough to be deemed "blizzard."

Amazingly, every meeting I attended from the United Way agency update to the West Side Rotary Club, people were talking about giving of themselves and identifying local unmet needs. These meetings warmed my heart from the little boy who went to Big Brothers Big Sisters in a snowstorm so that he would have a warm meal, to the more structural idea of creating a systematic school program to support the families of youth who have decided to stop attending school. After attending these meetings, it became clear to me that this community truly does put Service Above Self, as the old Rotary adage encourages.

In 4-H, one of our essential elements of youth development is generosity. We want to invoke the practice of youth serving others and help them process the value in this service. We know that soon the youth who are served by 4-H, Big Brothers Big Sisters, the YMCA and the Scouts will be adults in this community.

These adults will have the choice to belong to service organizations such as Rotary or Optimists International. Blurring the lines between the work we do as individual organizations is useful to teach our children the value of lending a helping hand.

The resounding purpose and intent of all organizations noted above is to support those in need. Mobilizing these efforts behind the goal of creating a more just, caring and kind place to live can be a teaching approach for our youth launching a potential Utopian ideal for our community. If you are looking for ways to serve your community, consider becoming a member of a civic organization or volunteering for a youth development association.

From the smallest act of generosity, such as purchasing hand warmers for homeless members of our community, to building a center for community activities, the citizens of Jefferson City have "caught the service bug" and are willing to spread it around! The Characterplus program is a wonderful example of teaching youth as an extension to creating a positive community environment.

Jenny Flatt, who is a University of Missouri Extension 4-H youth specialist, can be reached at 634-2824 or