There are moments as a parent that take your breath away in the best of ways.
Last night was one of those moments for me.
I was getting ready to take the kids to their Royal Rangers/Miss Sisterhood meetings at a local church when my son made the comment, “Mom, I need a job.” Hmm. That seems pretty random, but we’ll roll with it and see where it goes.
“Why do you need a job?” He replied, “Well, I need a steady income so I always have money for offering.”
I wanted to be proud…and I was proud of him, but I certainly couldn’t take credit for this. His mindset is already light years ahead of mine. It’s light years ahead of everyone I know, to be honest. How many people do you know who think of work, not as a way to survive or to be able to buy stuff, but as a way to be able to give? He just wants to be able to give more.
This shouldn’t be surprising to me considering this is the same child that earned money for the first time mowing the lawn a few years back and immediately gave all of it at church. And I would say that it’s just his amazing personality, but all his siblings are exactly the same. Every one of them has excitedly dumped their birthday money into the buckets at VBS, scrounged for any loose change they could find before church or begged me to help the homeless man on the street corner. They’re just generous kids, and for that I am so grateful. That’s 110% God, y’all!
That being said, we have worked really hard to try to instill generosity in them. Looking back at some of the things we’ve done, I think there are at least three that have made a big difference and I thought I’d share some ways you can help your kids develop a generous mindset.
- Give them LOTS of opportunities to serve. Years ago we started a tradition we called “team night” in our home. It was a time for our family to work together to serve in some way. Our “team nights” have morphed into mornings, weekends, or afternoons as opportunities presented themselves but our kids have been given so many chances to give of themselves. They’ve baked cookies for the police department, visited nursing homes, helped clean up a school before the school year started, done yard work, filled shoe boxes for Operation Christmas Child and so much more. We try to keep them constantly involved in community service and the result has been children who actively look for more opportunities to serve.
- Let them see where their giving goes. One of their favorite things to give to is our church’s Vacation Bible School offering and Christmas offering. Why? Because our church goes to great lengths to show exactly what that money is doing. They can see it at work. Last year, our VBS kids raised money for a children’s home in Africa. Africa is pretty far away to a bunch of American kids. Giving to kids on the other side of the world? That’s a hard thing for them to get their little minds around. But they showed videos of the kids and the showers they had that so desperately needed replacing. Before you go thinking that it was just some sad “Sarah McLaughlin song” type video, let me tell you what drew them. The videos showed the kids playing games, singing songs, laughing, smiling…they realized these were kids JUST LIKE THEM…but with showers that needed fixed. Those kids gave money like crazy, and this year when VBS rolled around they got to see pictures of the NEW showers that were paid for with the money THEY GAVE! Talk about motivating!
- Finally, let them see YOU give. One of the most defining moments in my childhood happened in a Pizza Hut on a Friday night. We were having a late dinner. A homeless man came in asking for food and the employees told him they didn’t have any for him. My dad boxed up the rest of our pizza and ran out of the store after the man and gave it to him. He set the standard. Our children have a similar moment they often refer back to that, I believe, impacted them far beyond what we ever could have intended. I had just taken the kids to the pool. They’d only be swimming for about 5 minutes when I got a call from my husband. He had just arrested a shoplifter. Now, if we had a dollar for every shoplifter he had to arrest while he was on patrol we could be retired already, so that certainly didn’t warrant a phone call in the middle of my day, but this man was different. His daughter was getting ready to go to school and he had stolen school supplies because he was too ashamed to tell her he couldn’t afford them. He’d never been arrested before, and he was completely broken. My husband wondered if I could go buy the man the school supplies and get them to the department before he finished booking him. I called the kids out of the pool and told them to get back into the car. Obviously, they were pretty confused and bummed, but as soon as I told them we needed to go get some school supplies for someone who didn’t have any it was like I sent them on a super-secret mission of goodwill. They rushed through the store grabbing what I told them to get and we got to the department just in time. They knew that giving those school supplies was a priority to us, so it automatically became priority to them.
Truth is, generous kids don’t happen by accident. You have to create opportunities and, most importantly, set the standard yourself. Make them a part of your own giving. How do you foster generosity in your home?