Tis the season to give! Though we practice giving and serving in our community year round during this time of the year we like to focus on sharing our blessings with those who are less fortunate. “Giving back” is something I highly recommend that all families get involved with in small or big ways. I’ve watched teens, kids and adults find purpose after being involved in community service projects in their neighborhood or abroad. I’ve witnessed people find healing in the process of giving. I’ve personally experienced the joy and gratitude it gives our family to serve together. And the hearts of my boys change as a result of serving others.
My heart gets all sorts of warm fuzzies when I’ve witnessed kindness birthed in the hearts of my boys. I have one child who is particularly drawn to service projects. My other two boys happily participate but the other child gets a twinkle in his eye at the thought of helping those in need. But as I was told in my younger years just because you’re not inclined towards doing something in particular, doesn’t exempt you from doing it.
So we continue to find opportunities to plant seeds of kindness in our boys hearts in hopes that one day when we’re not around it will flow from their hearts. Or at least they’ll know in their hearts and minds, it’s the right thing to do whether they choose to do it or not. We’ve given cookies out to street kids through a Cookie exchange with a twist, we’ve donated gently used toys to a low income school, we’ve packed our car with gifts and given them to kids on the street, we’ve gone to our local soup kitchen and helped serve food…
Well, this year we decided to do things a little different! Usually we have our boys go through their toys to donate to a charity at Christmas time. We find a place where we can donate toys and that allows our boys to have personal contact with the children in the process. Though dropping off toys at the Goodwill door is helping others the personal contact drives the message home to our kids in ways you can’t imagine, so if you have that option I highly recommend it.
Our boys participated in Operation Shoe Box this year! We buy a gift for a child the same age as them and then it’s delivered to children in poor areas and to the children of prisoners. My oldest also had a kindness project he was involved in with his class so he was needing to buy three gifts.
You know that quote, tell me and I forget, teach me and I remember… Well, this is what we’ve done: We’ve talked to them about giving. We’ve modeled giving and serving by doing it together. In the past years, I’ve had my boys go with me and pick out a toy for the child and then we purchase the gift with our money.This system has worked out just fine for us.
Until we did this one thing, I had them use their “give” money (I share here our allowance and paid jobs system we use in our home) to purchase the gifts themselves. They’ve been saving this “give” money pretty much all year and using it for other service projects like buying food for a disaster relief campaign and as things come up.
Well, when we arrived at the store we talked about the type of toys we were looking to buy. They immediately went to the cheap toys section so I had to remind them of our “giving rules” for the poor (I share here some other tips when giving):
- We don’t give junky toys that fall apart in a day.
- We don’t buy toys that constantly need battery replacements (or send the gift with a pack of batteries).
- We don’t give away things that are broken, stained, holes in it, don’t work…
After walking around the toy section for an hour and redirecting them and reminding them of our giving rules they found some good sturdy toys that were within their budget.
My kids were beaming when we got to the counter! I could tell they were proud of themselves. I realized then that though this took a lot longer than what I hoped for it was the best thing we’d done.
“You will have a greater blessing when you give than when you receive.” Acts 20:35
We got home and I had them wrap the toys and prepare the details of their gift. We watched a video of where the gifts were going and talked about why we were giving them gifts and how this act of kindness might impact the children receiving the gifts.
Teaching Our Kids to Give: The One Thing We Changed
I’ve worked in non-profits pretty much all my life and one of the things I learned is that we must get donors to become invested in the project in more than one way. I’m not sure why I hadn’t taken this advice into consideration until now, but it worked in our home!
What made this years Christmas giving different was that they were invested in more than one way, as I mentioned above. Not only were they involved in picking out the gift but they saved up all their money throughout the year. They also had to think through the gift they were buying not just picking any gift that crossed their path. In the past, they’ve invested their time by picking out the gift but I usually take care of all the small details.
This year they not only invested their time but also their money and the thinking through the details of giving these gifts. This made all the difference.
My son’s class has been participating in a kindness project all year long and their grand finale was to work on a Christmas program for the local orphanage and to donate gifts to them.
It was absolutely precious to watch these young kids serve in this way and to watch the excitement in the faces of these little people as they opened up their presents.
My son’s heart was changed after watching the little boy from the orphanage open up the gift that he spent so much time picking out. He later came to me and said, “This was awesome!”
Yes, it would’ve been easier for me to have bought the gift with my money, picked out the gift myself and then showed it to them, but I’m not going back to that again, not after what I witnessed this week at the at the store, in our home and at school.
This is how I hope to continue planting seeds of service and kindness in the hearts of my children. I’ve come across some very stingy adults (mostly men) who lack compassion and don’t believe in giving and serving others. Maybe that will be one of my boys, but hopefully not. If they do, you have my permission to tap them on the shoulder and say, “Your mama taught you better then that.”