Four Ways to Teach Generosity to the Next Generation
Just minutes after my brother-in-law left my sister and their two-month old baby for an out-of-town job interview, Carrie felt sick. No, it wasn’t just the nerves of not having a back-up caregiver, but a nasty stomach bug.
My sister and I talk often, but I live across the country and couldn’t be there to hold her baby, offer remedies or clean her bathroom.
But three or four other women did. This morning she answered my text of concern with “Thank goodness for the Relief Society women. I had someone here all the time, including overnight to help me and take care of Grace.”
That’s pure generosity, the generous spirit of Christ I want my children to learn to give and receive, especially at this time of year.
Our tree went up the day after Thanksgiving, and a day or so later, so did a lesson about the generosity of spirit I want to accompany our Christmas celebration this year.
So how do we do it? How do we impart the gift of generosity to the next generation?
#1. Don’t hide your light; hold it up!
I know the Holy Bible teaches us to “do not your alms before men, to be seen of them,” but it also encourages us that we should not hide our light under a bushel, but put it on a candlestick that others might see these good works and glorify God.
These teachings of Jesus Christ may seem opposite, but I don’t think so. We should give and do humbly for others with the right motivation—to glorify God, not ourselves—and let others see Him in our good works.
Children learn much as they see your good works. Teach by example.
#2. Show no excuses
Unfortunately, the initial response that often accompanies a generous thought is to put it aside, assuming that the little effort isn’t needed, it won’t matter or it won’t be well-received. Sometimes those things may be true, but fear, excuses or false assumptions shouldn’t hold us back.
I shared with my kids how I overcame thoughts like these just this week.
“I was folding laundry and saw a package on the ground outside the window,” I said. “I wondered whose it was and whether it was trash. I rationalized that I could wait to get it later.”
But then I told them, “I felt like I should go anyway.”
“Yeah, yeah, we know; we get it,” they teased.
“And so I went out to get it. And it was the neighbor’s. So I returned it to them, waiting for them to answer the door so it didn’t blow away again.”
Then my son said, “I saw that package a couple of days ago on the side of the house. Do you think it was the same one?”
Umm. Lesson learned all around.
#3. Invite generosity to your table (and conversations)
When my kids were young, little activities worked to remind them to give. Now that they are teenagers, those seem contrived. But I still want to follow-up our blessing basket with a way to share–in word and in deed.
So, we had a family night lesson about generosity. Yes, we started with that video, and then I asked them to look for ways to be generous and note generosity shown to them. Most nights this month this will be our questions at dinner:
“Who has helped or showed kindness to you today? How have you done that for someone else?”
Here is my daughter’s first share with us,
Sometimes with all that’s going on, it’s hard to believe that good actually exists anymore. But it’s the moment when I see high school boys running from car to car in the parking lot after school helping people get out of snow, that I realize humans can be pretty awesome.
Highlighting the good that happens inspires more good.
#4. Remember your family
Whether family is near or far, children can find ways to be generous to siblings, parents and relatives. This year, for the first time in many, we sent Christmas cards. I stopped this tradition when it became a burden I was placing on other family members.
Cards are a special reminder in the mail that someone remembered us. And this year, cards weren’t a have to, but a want to.
I involved the whole family in the normal course of the project in choosing the image and the words, making the list and stamping the envelopes. I tried to make our card more about sharing a generous spirit and less about us.
But really, however you choose to help your children remember family members, know that being generous isn’t a busy project or an expensive gift but sharing a part of yourself with them this season.
Your way of showing a generosity of spirit will be unique to you but I loved the examples and message shared in a devotional address at BYU Idaho, Scatter Sunshine by M. Winston Egan: leaving homemade cookies in the laundry bag for the dry cleaning staff, paying for the fast food meal of the next person in the drive thru, inviting widows, widowers and singles to a meal together
Generosity is not meant to be part of a to do list, but a natural, personal and compassionate response. It is simply doing good with what you have in the places where you are. And the best way to teach a generosity is to just be generous!
Check out this video to see more ideas about what and how to give to others at Christmas.