When you think of all the skills an animator needs in order to be successful, it can almost boggle the mind, especially when you’re looking at a group of 6th graders and making plans for the next four years of education and training.

Unfortunately, you don’t just get to sit on animators until they’re ready to hatch!

One of those skills is setting up service projects.

And one of the first steps in organizing a service project is making a phone call.

I wanted to do everything possible to make sure that their first experience with this was a positive one. When youth (or adults) are successful when they try something new, it builds confidence in their ability to do it again. Even if their second attempt flops, they maintain that confidence. But if the first experience is negative, it takes a LOT of pushing to get them to attempt a second time.

So the first step I took was to call ahead. The Empowered Souls had indicated during earlier brainstorming activities that they were interested in visiting with nursing home residents. I happen to know a nursing home director who is very friendly and patient with well-intentioned kids. I talked to her, let her know that the group would be calling (and when), and explained that the purpose was not just to organize the project, but to give the youth the experience of organizing it themselves.

On the day of the junior youth group’s meeting, we made two lists:

  • Questions we thought Ms. McConnell might ask us, and
  • Questions we wanted to ask Ms. McConnell

There was some overlap, as in (how can we serve/how would you like to serve?), but it was pretty straightforward. We thought she might want to know how many kids were in the group, what ages they were, how many adults would be coming, when we were available, etc. We also wanted to know if we should bring anything with us, whether our regular meeting time would be a good time to visit, and what kinds of visitors the residents liked.

Then we assigned speaking parts to each person.

  • One would introduce the group.
  • One would ask about times to visit.
  • One would ask about activities.
  • One would ask about bringing materials.
  • And I would finish up.

We took notes of our talking points and sat in a circle in order, so that each speaker could just pass the phone to the person who was next. We also used speaker phone, and assigned one person to take notes.

The call went very well! Ms. McConnell had some questions for us that we hadn’t thought about. She wanted to know

  • Whether we wanted to do one visit or come back multiple times.
  • Whether any of the group had prior experience working with the elderly.
  • Whether we preferred to work with a group of residents or one-on-one.

It was a very good learning experience, and provided insight into what kinds of planning we need to do when setting up service projects in the future.

The results were even better than any of us expected: the nursing home’s Activities Director is going to visit our junior youth group’s meeting next week, educate us about working with older adults, and help us plan our service. Then we’ll have one more meeting to prepare (the girls want to make cards or small gifts to give to residents when they visit).

Did we spend an entire 1 1/2 hour meeting on one phone call? Yup. Could I have organized the entire thing in about 5 minutes on my own? Absolutely. (Especially because, as I later revealed to the girls, Ms. McConnell the nursing home director also happens to be my mom!) But we’re working towards building the capacity to serve in increasingly complex ways, not just pumping out quick one-off experiences. It takes a lot more work to function this way, but in 2017 when each of these girls is leading their own groups in study and service …

I will be so glad we blew a whole meeting on a phone call.

(I can’t wait!)

Robin’s nest photo was taken by my stepfather in his front yard. Don’t worry, the robin has been building in the same place for two years now, and she’s used to his poking around with a camera.

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