School Teaches Students the Value of GivingTwo girls from St. John Lutheran School in Kendallville sit at a table playing Yahtzee, rolling dice with a resident from Lutheran Life Villages.“I don’t know how to play,” the resident says smiling, while one of the girls helps tally her scorecard.Although this might seem like fun and games, what’s happening is something far more important. It’s a chance for students to interact with the residents of Lutheran Life Villages, learning the importance of serving others.St. John Lutheran School in Kendallville is dedicated to bringing hope to the residents at Lutheran Life Villages. By sending a class to volunteer every month, they teach students important interpersonal skills and the value of serving others. Past activities include a talent show for residents, a project that seniors and students work on together, and a story-sharing time.
For the students, it’s a chance to serve others, but also an opportunity to learn something about relating to those who are different from them.Tacy Potts, a parent who has three children at St. John Lutheran schools, also serves as an occupational therapist at Lutheran Life Villages. She sees firsthand how the visits between St. John Lutheran School students and Lutheran Life residents is mutually beneficial.“Wheelchairs and walkers can be intimidating to kids because they don’t understand it. My kids are used to it and are not afraid of talking to the residents. The kids gain a lot from their visits to Lutheran Life Villages.”Because of her job as an occupational therapist, she knows how intimidating it can be for children to approach someone who is different.
But the students aren’t the only ones who benefit from the visit. The residents look forward to the visits too, especially those residents who may not see their grandchildren or relatives“Kids are joyful and full of life,” Mrs. Potts adds. “It’s always very positive for the residents.”Third grade teacher, Peggy Schroeder organized a class talent show for residents, offering a variety of creative, and sometimes funny, demonstrations to delight residents.“Students read stories they had written. One clucked like a chicken. My husband played guitar so we could sing. It gets students out of their comfort zone.”Additionally, it also gives students the opportunity to talk about disabilities afterwards, which leads to a better understanding of sympathy and understanding for people who are different.“It still makes them nervous when residents can’t speak well.” Mrs. Schroeder adds. “We have conversations like, ‘Why does he talk like that?’ The students learn to have compassion for people.”During one visit, the Lutheran Life residents took front and center, telling stories about their lives and holding a question and answer session. Mrs. Schroeder says the experience teaches kids important life lessons.“It’s a good reminder to find joy in what you have, like giving a smile to someone.”
It’s also a chance for students to serve others while sharing God’s love, highlighting the theme of Christ-centeredness that characterizes a Lutheran school education.“I want my children to be compassionate. This is a way for our students to demonstrate Christ’s love and to serve,” Mrs. Schroeder adds. “I don’t care what you do in life as long as you love Jesus and serve him. It’s really all that matters.”