It is better to give than to receive. We hear this saying all the time. Especially during the holidays, when giving to others is more prominent. Giving to those less fortunate, giving food to the hungry, clothing to the needy and assistance in times of crisis. It seems as if giving is the “thing to do” from November to January. But why does it need to end there? Why can’t giving be a part of our everyday lives, on a daily basis? Why not incorporate it in the way we live our lives and the way in which we raise our children?
The original quote from the bible states:
“In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.' "Acts 20:35
Albert Einstein agreed: “The value of a man resides in what he gives and not in what he is capable of receiving”, and Winston Churchill proclaimed “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give”.
One of my first “giving” memories is standing with my parents, in the back kitchen of our church after Sunday mass, and making mountains of pasta and sauce to be delivered to a local shelter. I remember standing in the shelter later that day, serving lunch to the many families who patiently waited in line, and asking my grandmother why this woman wore so many clothes. She had on layers and layers of sweaters. My grandmother’s response? Not everyone has a closet to keep their clothes in. I remember handing out grandma’s hand-knit scarves to homeless men in Hartford, and singing Christmas carols with my Brownie Troop to our local convalescent home. Giving back isn’t something my parents and grandparents just taught me and my sisters. They lived it. Every day.
Recently a good friend asked me for suggestions on how to get her children more involved with deciding what charities they donated to. The children are 7 and 9, and have seen their parents participate in a variety of charity events and drives. She would like them to have a more active role in deciding what charities they give to, and how they give. I thought about it for awhile, and came up with an answer. It might not be the right answer for everyone, but what seems to work for me is to involve them. Truly involve the children in every aspect if possible. Take them with you when you drop off food, or bring clothes to a shelter. Ask them how they might like to give back and what they are interested in. They may want to host a lemonade stand and give the profits to a specific charity, or volunteer at dog rescue place. Or make homemade brownies for the neighbors you have yet to meet. Giving kindness is also a way to give back too, I tell my girls. Whatever it is that they want to do to help others, is wonderful. I think when children feel ownership over giving, it becomes a part of them.
Last month, my 9-year old daughter, wrote my blog. She wrote about Thanksgiving and listed some suggestions children would do to help others. I am so proud of her, and decided to put her ideas into action. Beginning on December 1st, our family is going to launch our “25 Days of Giving” challenge. From now through Christmas Day we are going to do at least one thing to help someone else. The girls are going to come up with ways to give back- with our guidance, so that we are not buying Barbie dolls for my 6 yr old’s teddy bear. The girls are very excited to begin, and my hope is that this will remind us of all we have to be thankful for, and inspire us to give daily. I truly hope my girls grow up with a sense of giving, and it becomes a part of them forever. That one day they will look back on our "25 Days of Giving” challenge and smile.