Editor's note - This column was originally published in The Times and Democrat on Oct. 4, 2015.
An article on CNN.com a few years back presented 10 places that promise to “change your child’s life.” It drew me in.
Marco Island, Florida. Big Sur, California. The Grand Canyon. Chesapeake Bay, Maryland. Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. New York City. London, England. Trim, Ireland. Muskoka, Canada. The Galapagos Islands.
My “child” is nearing 33 years old. We never took her to the Galapagos Islands, but we did visit three out of the 10. She made it to New York City, London and Washington. I’m entirely certain that none of these trips changed her life. They were adventures, and she enjoyed them, as did we. Life changing, though? I don’t think so.
As an alternative, let me suggest 10 places that can influence and change a child’s life.
A parent’s lap. This is the first place a child should feel comfort and value. Spending time in your parents’ laps provides a sense of security and love. The closeness is not only physical but also emotional. Security and love are life changing.
A corner. We laugh when Dennis the Menace has to sit in his corner after some dastardly disobedience. Every child should have a time-out place, where he understands that actions have consequences and that self-reflection is a must for growing up and becoming responsible. Discipline and accountability are life changing.
A parent’s arms. The world will beat up on children; it will tear them down; it will humiliate them; it will try to undermine their sense of value and purpose. A parent’s arms, reaching out and embracing, provide a place where children feel safe and loved, despite how the world tries to bully them. Comfort is life changing.
A local library. Get the kids off the computer games and away from the television. Get them a library card. Give them the joy of choosing their own adventures through books. Read with them. Teach them the value of reading. That is life changing.
The yard. Go outside and toss a football with your child. Wash the car together. Rake the yard. Plant seeds and watch them grow. The yard provides opportunities to learn responsibility and to communicate through shared activities. Interaction is life changing.
A fishing hole. Today’s children are victims of the instant-gratification sickness that has infected the world. Fishing teaches them patience, that though there could be something on the other end of the line, often there is not. When they are finally rewarded with a catch, they experience the joy of perseverance. Patience is life changing.
A museum. Taking a child to a museum provides an awareness of history and culture. It can teach them that they are a small part of a larger whole. A sense of their purpose in their time is life changing.
A nursing home or hospital. Expose your children to the needs of others. Teach them that life has its ups and downs and that part of the reason they are here is to serve others. Serving others is life-changing. So is realizing that every day is a gift and nothing is ever guaranteed.
A church. Teach your children about God and help them understand they are part of a community of faith, with responsibilities and opportunities to serve God. God is life changing.
None of these will cost money, yet they will give your children more life-changing places than any amount of money can buy.