We are getting to that time of year when people begin to feel a little more charitable. How do we foster a desire to help others in our children? How do we make being charitable come naturally?
I feel that I cannot clearly write this post without pointing out to readers that may not know me well that I am a Christian. I was lucky enough to have two great Christian parents that really were awesome examples of selfless generosity.
Many memories of my childhood come to mind when I think of lessons learned about giving. One in particular I remember from one of my first few days of first grade. When I got on the bus a friend of my gave me a flower. I loved it, and remember feeling how special I was going to look to be carrying around a flower all day. Everyone would know I was loved. Soon after I got off of the bus and went to the playground for our morning recess, another girl came up to me. This girl had down syndrome, and I didn’t know her well, but she had tried talking to me a few times when we were out at recess. She asked me if she could have my flower. I gave her my flower. I automatically did it because I knew it was the right thing to do, and I had been raised that way. It didn’t mean it didn’t hurt though. I went home that afternoon and cried to my mother about how I loved that flower but I needed to give it away. My mother grabbed this opportunity as a teaching moment. She pulled out a silk rose she had and gave it to me. She told me that this flower was for me for giving away the other one. She told me that because I did the right thing, I now had a flower that wouldn’t die in a few days like the other one did. She told me that being giving and generous and doing the right thing was always rewarded. It may not be rewarded right away, but in the end, it would be. It was exactly the lesson my first grade mind and heart needed to hear, and it made an impact on me.
As a teacher, I felt it was important for students to get involved with those less fortunate. As a special needs teacher, I found it especially important. My students were often treated as charitable cases, and it gave them a sense of worth to know that they could help others. We made service projects part of our classes. With two other teachers, I began a “kids care club” after school. So, even before becoming a parent, I knew I would want my own children to be seriously involved in giving to others. However, the way to go about it and what exactly to do has not always been quite so clear. I want my children to have positive feelings about being generous, and I want them to make it a way of life.
I have been speaking with a friend of mine about a book she’s been reading called “Crazy Love,” by Francis Chen that really encourages philanthropy. He also has some videos on YouTube. She’s been sharing some ideas as well about service projects with kids. I have a few ideas to share below, but would love to hear ideas you have. With each service project, I talk with kids about what we are doing at length beforehand. Many children have no idea that there are those that are less fortunate.
1. Go through your child’s toys with them and pick out ones that would be suitable to donate to a local charity.
2. Bring food to a local food pantry. You could also check if your food pantry needs any help putting the food on the shelves or sorting food.
3. Participate in a gift donation charity such as “Operation Christmas Child.”