As Catholic parents, part of our job is instilling faith in our children. This requires us to live out the faith every day as followers of Christ.

One way we can do this is to teach children the value of giving their time while serving others through acts of mercy.

When children give their time, they begin to think outside of themselves. They learn to see that they can use their God-given gifts and talents to assist those in need in a multitude of ways. The more diverse options available to children, the more likely they will want to help.

One can’t help but realize the many benefits of volunteer work at any level. Although service may begin as obligatory, children may continue it because they have discovered something they are passionate about. Then service becomes something they want to do, rather than something they need to do.

It can be difficult to figure out what children can do to help others as they have limited control over resources, time and transportation. But we can all make a difference in another person’s life in small ways that can impact another person’s life.

In examining the seven Corporal Works of Mercy, what are some small ways children can give to others?

Feed the hungry: Children can organize a food drive at their school or parish, share their lunch with a child who does not have one or invite a child over for dinner whose parents work late in the evening.

Give drink to the thirsty: Pass out water at a school sporting event or conserve water by making sure not to let it run too long.

Clothe the naked: Winters in Vermont can be cold and snowy. There are often students at schools who do not have warm clothes for recess. Children can give spare or lightly used winter coats, gloves and boots to their friends who may not have them.

Visit the imprisoned: Children may not be able to visit prisons, but they can be mindful and kind that there are some children who may have a parent who is in prison. This is a great lesson on treating others with kindness regardless of what they or their family members have done in the past.

Comfort the sick: This can be as simple as offering a glass of water to someone who is coughing in class or calling a grandparent who is not well to check up on them.

Bury the dead: Children can be surprisingly comforting to one who mourns. They don’t feel anxious about what to say to someone after they’ve lost a loved one. Sometimes all it takes is a heartening hug or a colorful hand-made card to make someone feel consoled.

Shelter the homeless: Children may not be able to build homes for people, but they can offer to have a friend spend the night if there is trouble at home or parents need to be away. They can also reach out to new classmates to help them feel at ease and at home in their new surroundings.

These are all examples of things that children can do to volunteer their time. It makes them feel good that they are helping someone out, and they quickly realize that they can do little things that can mean a lot to another person.

When we participate in selfless acts to help others, we open ourselves to the graces God has in store for us.

St. Teresa of Calcutta said, “Not all of us can do great things, but we can do small things with great love.”

— Valerie Parzyck is director of religious education and youth ministry at St. John Vianney Parish in South Burlington.

—Originally published in the Winter 2022 issue of Vermont Catholic magazine.