Many people think that teaching a three year-old about community service -- about helping others -- is not possible, because they are too young to comprehend. But that's just not true.
Before children graduate from my day care/pre-school program and go off to kindergarten, they complete a community service project. They decide which non-profit organization they want to support, and they come up with a plan on how they'll support it.
Last year, one of my students, five year-old Phoebe decided to raise money for the San Francisco Food Bank. Phoebe made that decision after she saw a man eating food out of a trash can. It made a big impression on her. Her mom and I explained that there are people in this world who don't have what we have, and it's our job to help others.
Phoebe took that job seriously and decided it wasn't up to someone else. She had the idea to collect empty cans and turn them in for the recycling money. Her goal was to raise $1,000. I never in my life thought that was realistic, but Phoebe worked so hard! She collected cans, wrote letters, and asked people to match what she raised. When she made that first $1,000, she cried -- I cried -- we all cried.
The first thing she asked me was, "How many people will this feed?" She really understood what she was raising money for. By the end of her project, the word had spread and Phoebe's campaign went viral. Ultimately, she raised more than $20,000, and more than 30,000 pounds of donated food for the Food Bank.