Monday, September 6, 2010
“It is more blessed to give than to receive” –Acts 20:35
Teaching our kids to be givers, not takers, starts early, very early. While it may not be “natural” for a child to share his Legos, kids do model the giving they observe in their parents.
I remember when I was a little boy at Arlington Heights United Methodist church in Fort Worth, every year my parents would always give me the little box with envelopes in it. They explained that I was to put a quarter in the envelope and put it in the offering plate when it came by on Sunday morning. I would take the envelope and write “Joey” on it and put my quarter (that my mom gave me) in it. I remember putting it in the plate and wondering how that quarter ever got all the way to God. They were teaching me to “give away.”
Kids are more inclined to give away, but by the time those kids become teenagers, their money is spent on itunes, iphones and other electronics. But deep inside, given the right prompting, even teenagers can be givers.
The last five years, I’ve been a part of a mission trip to the Gulf Coast to help with Katrina relief. We were involved in general clean up, helping rebuild homes and bringing encouragement to the people of New Orleans and surrounding areas. We took Staff from Doulos and a group of teenagers from the Shelterwood program.
My favorite part of the trip was watching these otherwise difficult teenagers serve the people. Given the opportunity to be “others-centered,” these remarkable teens worked hard and engaged with the hurting people of New Orleans.
One of my best memories of those mission trips was working on the home of an elderly gentleman named Harry. He lived in New Orleans and has since passed away. But the few days we painted his house, he was so appreciative of our efforts. He especially engaged with the teenagers working on his home and they engaged with him.
Many times I think we’re hesitant to “nudge” our teens towards giving away their “valuables”: time, possessions, money and themselves.
As I’ve mentioned before, my dad especially was a giver. I remember numerous times him giving away valuables to people in need and on many occasions him giving to worthy causes. I’m not sure he knew how much I was watching him, but with eyes like a hawk, I soaked in every encounter and conversation.
Kids are like that. They may not appear to be engaged, but they are watching every move we make (or don't make) and are filing it away for later justification to give or to hoard. Right or wrong, the actions of parents are readily used to justify actions of kids. That’s why stats show that children of parents that use drugs are more likely to, you guessed it, use drugs.
So, be intentional with your kids and teens. Look for opportunities to give. I read in the paper once that a trailer park outside of Branson flooded. I loaded up the family one Saturday morning and we went and helped clean up the mess. That was my dad whispering in my ear to “go.” Don't think about going but GO!
Be a giving parent and you’ll raise kids that are givers, whether you give them the quarter or not.
By Eric Joseph Staples ©