Unschooling Articles from Live Free Learn Free

I Love My Job
by Anne E. Ohman
My fourteen-year-old son, Jacob, has always been a compassionate and sensitive soul.  From his earliest years, he would give cherished toys away to friends if he felt they were enjoying them.  Several times, when we were driving in a city, he would insist that we stop the car, regardless of the amount of traffic behind us, to give money to the homeless people he saw.  One day when he was eight years old, his benevolence opened the door to a new world for him, his brother and myself.

On this day, as was routine when I gave Jacob his allowance, I asked him the customary questions and awaited his answers.  

“How much do you want to put in your savings account?”  Reply: “One dollar.”

“How much do you want to give to charity?”  

This time there was silence.  

I was awaiting his standard reply of “One dollar,” which would leave the rest of his allowance for his own spending decisions.  I knew that Jacob was saving his money for the new, expensive Egyptian Lego set that he had been cherishing.  But as I looked at my son, I saw tears in his eyes.  

He asked, “You mean charity, like homeless children?”  

“Yes,” I replied, “that is one possibility.”  

The tears multiplied as he handed me his entire allowance.  ”Here, Mom, please give it all to them.”  

As I questioned him of the certainty of his decision, he reached for the $12 he already had saved for the Lego set from past allowances, and pushed it into my hands.  As he was crying, he said, “I don’t need this.  You and Dad get me everything I need.  They need this more than I do.”

His philanthropic behavior continued for many months.  Jacob had accumulated a jar full of money just waiting for the right charity.  When he began asking why our family needed to save money to build a house, why we couldn’t just give all of our money to charity, I realized the magnitude of what he was feeling.  Even after giving up all of his money for weeks and going without items he had previously wanted to buy, he still felt that he wasn’t doing enough.  It was time for action, not just donations.  

I discussed with Jacob the possibility of him volunteering his time, actually giving a part of himself instead of just his money.  He thought this was a great idea, even after I advised him of the immense responsibility of the commitment he would be undertaking.  His first desire was to help homeless children, so I began making phone calls to see what he could do.  Because Jacob is homeschooled, he could be available to volunteer at almost any hour of the day, which we thought would increase his available opportunities.  Yet phone call after phone call left us feeling frustrated, as soup kitchens and other organizations would not allow a seven-year-old to have a job or help out in even the smallest way.  Some simply did not return my call.  They obviously did not know this seven-year-old!

A few days following our futile attempts, I spotted an article in the newspaper citing a need for volunteers at our county’s senior meal center to deliver lunches to homebound senior citizens.  Since we had spent a previous Thanksgiving delivering holiday dinners, I knew what this job entailed and approached Jacob with the possibility.  I also thought it would be a good option because it was something he and his younger brother, Sammy, and I could do together.  Although originally disappointed that the recipients of his benevolence would not be homeless children, he soon realized that this was where he was needed at the time, and he began looking forward to our first day on the job.  
We were warmly welcomed into what was soon to become like our second family at the Delaware County Senior Meal Center.  The director, Mr.  Kilmer, was impressed with the fact that Jacob and Sam sought to help others.  In fact, for awhile, when we arrived at the Meal Center, the children sustained a sort of celebrity status, with each senior smiling at them and wanting to get to know them.  It made it a bit difficult to remain humble and strive for an attitude of servitude, but they held fast to the real reason they were there.

We were shown our delivering route, and it did not take long to become friends with those on our route who wished to have a friend in us.  

As I watched Jacob and Sam do their work every week, I fell in love with these children of mine all over again.  Their system was so efficient, their greetings so genuinely warm and filled with love.  Watching them, it was evident that the most significant part of their job was the joy that they themselves received after handing each senior a meal and giving a part of themselves to each recipient – it was truly immeasurable.  

They would walk back to our car with a very satisfied look and a joyful glow coming from deep within them.  After our final delivery for the day, Jacob would usually sigh and declare, “I love my job.”  

When people would comment on how lucky I was to have two “helpers” to deliver meals with me, I promptly corrected them and let them know that the job belonged to the children, and it was I who was their helper.  

Of most value to the children and myself were the true friendships that developed between the seniors and us.  Jacob’s favorite, Mr. Junge, just adored the boys.  This remarkable man, wearing thick glasses and having had laser surgery on his eyes, was a master at paint-by-number sets.  He presented Jacob with one of his masterpieces one Christmas.  Mr. Junge wanted so much to give something to Jacob in return for all of the kindness Jacob had shown to him.

Another favorite of Jacob and Sam’s was Mrs. Pomeroy.  A spunky old woman, she at first seemed to worry about having children in such a responsible position, handling her meals and collecting her money.  Yet after a month of visits, the boys earned her trust and respect, and we knew she looked forward to our Thursday visits.  

Because we had missed a week of delivering meals and Mrs. Pomeroy was in the hospital the following week, Jacob and Sam missed her company.  We decided to follow the urging in our hearts to visit her in the hospital when we had finished our route.  The children enthusiastically selected a beautiful balloon bouquet for Mrs. Pomeroy and humbly searched the hospital for her room.  Mrs. Pomeroy was delighted to see Jacob and Sam, and as we left after a short chat, we overheard her remark to her roommate, “Those are the boys that deliver my meals!”  

The next week, we were to learn that Mrs. Pomeroy passed away two days after our visit.  As we routinely worked our route that day, Jacob and Sam’s hearts were heavy, but so very thankful that we had listened to our inner voice telling us to pay her one last visit.  We continued to think of her every week and we felt her presence with us as we shared our love with others on our route.

Another recipient of our senior meals, Mrs. Bardhon, suffered from severe depression along with other medical conditions.  Most days, we would find her in bed, sleeping, the TV so loud that she couldn’t hear us knock.  She never bothered to get dressed or comb her hair.  When she did feel like talking to us, it was about God.  Most days, she waved us away and was extremely anxious.  

One year, the week before Christmas, Mrs. Bardhon was not at home, but we were instructed to leave her meal for her.  Jacob, Sammy and I had been planning with two other homeschooled families to sing carols on Christmas Eve at the homes to which we deliver.  I left a note for Mrs. Bardhon, telling her that we would be caroling for her next week, along with her regular meal delivery.  

That Christmas Eve was the most joyous ever.  It was the first time Jacob and Sam actually felt that they had given an authentic gift to people who truly received it with love.  At each home, we were welcomed with beautiful smiles and joyous humming to accompany our singing, even at the few homes of those who didn’t normally take the time to talk to us.  The children ran from house to house with the enthusiasm of trick-or-treating on Halloween, but this time they were the ones giving the treats, and this filled them with an obvious joy.  The most magical moment of the day took place at Mrs. Bardhon’s home.  

At each house, Jacob and I would prepare the other children for what we might encounter. When we arrived at Mrs. Bardon’s house, we let the children know that she may have been in bed and may not have wanted us to be there.  As Jacob and I entered the house before everyone else, we squeezed each other’s hands because only we, and Sam, knew the enormity of what we were to behold!  

There was Mrs. Bardon - up and out of bed, dressed, hair styled beautifully, perhaps even a bit of make-up on her glowing face!  She had even invited a friend over to share in the gift of the children’s song.  To make her preparations worthwhile, we chose the two longest Christmas carols.  Her entire being was illuminated as she studied each singing child, especially Jacob and Sam.  Her smile was so wide, you would think it would hurt, and her joy spilled out into laughter and applause for the children - even before they had finished all of the verses of the carols!  I hugged her tightly as we were leaving, and I did not want to let go.

As I left her house, I found the children chatting enthusiastically, on their way to the next house.  I stopped them, held my boys’ hands tightly, and fervently said, “You have NO IDEA of the gift you just gave to that woman - THE GIFT OF A REASON TO GET OUT OF BED.”  

And as I said those words, Jacob and I cried, because we knew that we had, in fact, just received the incredible gift of Mrs. Bardhon’s love.  

Jacob, Sam and I delivered meals for four years almost every single Thursday.  What Jacob and Sam received from their volunteer job often seems far greater than what they gave.  In their unstructured world of home-schooling freedom, Thursdays meant a set time to be somewhere, a place to be, a community of loving people beyond their home, people depending on them and anticipating their visit.  I have always prayed with my children each day for the Universe to show us how we can do good for others, and on Thursdays for those four years, the Universe held the door open wide for us!
And my sweet Jacob was content and satisfied...once again able to give to himself because of fulfilling his need to give to the Universe, too.

“I love my job!”
Jacob is Anne Ohman’s first-born child who introduced her and her husband to unschooling, and their family’s lives have been blessed ever since.  She is an inspirational speaker at homeschooling conferences, sharing with others what she has learned from her own journey of life and learning.  She is also the creator and director of a unique, non-typical children’s library program.  She and her family live on a mountaintop on ten acres in a very rural part New York State. 



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