Friday, November 21, 2008

The Joy of Giving

WOW! Just in time for Thanksgiving folks heard a great message last night from Carol Weisman about teaching children the joy of giving. As promised, I will share with you some of her insights. However, you have to know that Carol is pretty comical when she presents. Don't know if I can transfer that to paper, but I'll give it my best effort.

So what is the right age to introduce your children to charitable giving? Weisman believes that even at the young age of three or four children can begin to grasp giving and caring for others.

She shared how she and her husband called a family meeting each year at Christmas time to determine where they would make donations. They used Monopoly money to help the children visually see where all the money was going. Weisman said one year they still had charities that they wanted to give to, but the money was gone. Her oldest son looked at his dad and said, "Well, you are just going to have to work harder because we need more money!"

I was interested in the fact that Carol does not recommend making donations instead of giving gifts to children because they then associate charitable giving with loss. Her suggestion is to tell your child that in addition to their birthday party you would like to make a gift in their honor. Ask them where they would like you to donate. If they struggle to come up with something asking questions like, What did you enjoy doing this past year? or What makes you happy? can help you make a donation to something that is meaningful to them.

A friend of Carol's who is a grandmother told her granddaughter that for her birthday she didn't want her to buy a gift. She wanted her to go and do something nice for someone and then come tell her what she did.

The one thing Carol wishes she had done through the years was keep a journal of all of the places they gave to and why.

Carol believes that whether you have a lot of money to give or you are operating off of a shoestring there are lots of creative ways to teach children about giving. If you can't give money, give time. A friend of Carol's, who is a single mother, gathered her kids together once a month on Saturday to go volunteer. They were allowed to bring a friend if they wanted to, but not coming was not an option. Despite the fact that they were barely making it, the mom insisted they give to others. Now a grown woman, one of the daughters commented that the volunteering she did with her family was one of the things that most impacted her life.

Carol contends that teaching your children to be great givers can strengthen the bonds of family and friendship. Even though their boys are grown and living on their own, they still gather for their annual family meeting. A rich closeness has developed in this family as a result of coming together to share what they valued, what made them happy and experiences that had helped them be who they are today.

We are headed into Thanksgiving week. In the midst of all the bad news that seems to be circling overhead I think the best news is that we as people have so much to give. Whether we have lots of money or just a little we all can make a difference somewhere.

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