17 Cloverbuds from our Lil’ Stampede 4-H Club came to visit Pinke Lumber, our family business on a Sunday afternoon, the first day of spring. Many parents stayed as helpers. My husband had our back shop tables organized with our wood arts project, cut-outs of each child’s traced hand which we had done at a prior meeting to be sanded, stained and assembled into a paper holder.
I set out 24 square Easter baskets. My girls had filled them with plastic Easter grass looking fill. As children came to the meeting, they brought items to share in the baskets. Jelly beans, chocolates, packets of seeds, tissues, note cards, and small games.
To open the meeting, the Cloverbuds, ages 5-8, we recite the Pledge of Allegiance and work on reciting the 4-H Pledge. Not every member has it memorized yet so we open our workbooks to have the kids read through it.
Together they said, “I pledge my head to clearer thinking, my heart to greater loyalty, my hands to larger service, and my health to better living, for my club, my community, my country and my world.”
I am a relatively new 4-H leader and our club is also new, receiving our charter last year. I want the kids to live out what they are reciting and not just have it be something they have to do at the beginning of a monthly meeting. The words should mean something to them even at their young age. This month we focused on “hands to larger service” for our community.
Each child helped fill the Easter baskets, dumping in candy, dividing out notecards, tissues, packets of seeds and a few little games into the baskets. I explained community service and how each of them with their parent would take a basket at the end of the meeting to deliver to a senior citizen in our community of their choice. It could be a neighbor, someone they know from church, a grandparent or a friend of a grandparent, whoever they would like. We had some back-up names in case the child/ parents didn’t have someone in mind to deliver to. I thought of ladies who fill pews at our church and a few on a quiet street I drive on daily as possibilities but know there are more to serve than we had baskets.
One child asked what a senior citizen was. We explained they are older people, often living alone in community or as a couple. Another mom explained some don’t have children or grandchildren coming to visit them at holidays like Easter so their visit with a basket would be extra special. I shared about serving others, giving back to our community and when they delivered their basket they could say, “Happy Easter! My 4-H Club made this for you.” A few kids practiced to not be nervous.
We snacked on Clementine oranges and drank juice. Each child filled in their workbook by writing down our meeting date and drawing a picture of what we did at the meeting. Pictures of hands, hammers and Easter baskets filled the pages.
I looked around the back shop and wanted to bottle up the moment. Young children learning alongside their parents and helpers, filling baskets to share and playing with one another. The world seemed perfectly right in the moment, away from violence and political headlines, on a sunny Sunday afternoon on the first day of Spring. Each child left with a new hammer from my husband to work on their own projects at home with parents and a basket to deliver.
I took each of my girls separately to deliver their Easter baskets, Anika on Sunday evening and Elizabeth on Tuesday evening. We had extras and a total of nine to deliver. One woman said to Anika, “What did I do to deserve this?” Anika, “You’re old in Wishek.” The honesty of a six-year-old. The woman and I laughed and laughed and then Anika corrected herself and said, “It’s community service!” It is a lesson in serving one another, even a little basket can be community service.
I asked Elizabeth in front of the last person she delivered to “Tell her why your 4-H club made these baskets.” Elizabeth said, “For kindness.” Her summary was correct. Learning to use their hands in service, giving back to others and volunteering their time are acts of kindness. Elizabeth got back in our car and said, “This is the most fun, sharing with others. Let’s do it again.” We definitely will.On my dining room table now are two sets of hands from their completed wood arts projects to remind me of the perfectly good Sunday 4-H meeting, the acts of kindness and the little hands who learned to serve others.
(This was originally published as my weekly Agweek column.)