This guest post is by Sara Schiff, a PGK Board member, freelance journalist, and mother of three.
I moved to Los Angeles from Toronto, Canada and my first impressions were – not surprisingly – how different it was from home. The weather, the car culture, the houses and the people, amongst other things. One of my biggest concerns though was, “How do I raise my kids in a city where the focus seems to be almost exclusively on fame, beauty and wealth?” I knew I would find people like me who were interested in more than that, but I was worried, nonetheless, that these influences which my kids were surrounded by would outweigh the grounding influence of family and close friends.
So one December, in the midst of the holiday frenzy, when I heard a story on NPR about ways for families to give back to their community at a time when everyone was focused on what they were getting, I was immediately excited. After talking with PGK founder, Molly Yuska, I knew this was what our family needed to stay grounded in world of fleeting values. Since getting involved, we have packed bags of food for the homeless, sorted clothes for needy families, planted trees and cleaned up beaches. I have found that not only have my kids benefited from the numerous opportunities to volunteer, but my husband and I have as well.
The extreme gap between wealthy and poor in LA is so great and people live so cut off from one another that Los Angelenos tend to be very disconnected from anyone other then those who live in their immediate world. Volunteering has helped me and my family connect to people both in our community and outside of it, who we would otherwise not have had contact with. My kids also now have a better perspective on their own lives and how lucky they are, but also how similar people are no matter where they come from.
Raising kids is a constant challenge, especially given the pervasiveness of social media and the ways it is used to further bombard kids with superficial, selfish messages. So it’s clear to me that volunteerism needs to be a way of life and not just an occasional activity. PGK has helped my family consider our role in the world, and our responsibility to others, while also experiencing fun, family-bonding activities. My kids are still typical American kids at the end of the day, obsessed with their Instagram accounts and other social media, but at least every once in a while, they’ll admit that although getting a lot of “likes” is fun, at the end of the day, being good to others is what matters most.