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As summer begins, some parents contemplate not some cushy, luxuriating “entitlement” vacation for their kids, but rather how to get them out of their “comfort zone” and into some kind of very different environment where they see things differently, realize how others live, learn to work, or give service. Some families go to great lengths to give their children this kind of perspective-changing experience.

We have worked pretty hard at it ourselves. We found that summer humanitarian expeditions to third world locations to build a school or dig a well actually didn’t cost any more than a vacation at Disney World, and our kids came home with a new appreciation of their blessed circumstances and the beginning of an understanding that they have the power to help those who have less.

Another summer we lived as a family deep in the woods of eastern Oregon and built a log cabin together. We started out in a teepee and cut logs and worked together to build a small cabin the same size as the one that our great great grandfather raised 9 children in. In a similar effort with similar goals in mind, our daughter Saydi and her husband took their children to live on an isolated working farm for 6 months where they grew crops and raised livestock and were home-schooled.

Another summer, we staged the production of the musical “Annie” in a small rural Idaho town, with our kids and the town kids (and their parents) doing all the acting, costuming, directing, publicizing, and music, and used the proceeds from its three-night run to build a new parking lot for the church.

There are certainly less dramatic ways to get kids out of their comfort zone, including a “real” summer job, or helping out at a homeless shelter, or providing some kind of service in an inner city. Each parent needs to think about the awareness and perspective needs and limits of his own children and look for ways to meet those needs and lift those limits.

To think further about this notion:

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