My grandmother is quite the financially savvy woman, and throughout the years, she has intentionally taught her sons and grandchildren how to steward their resources. After years of buying all 10 of her grandchildren Christmas gifts, she decided to do something radically different. On one Thanksgiving in particular, she declared that for Christmas, we would no longer be receiving gifts from her. Instead, she was going to donate the money she would have spent on gifts for us to charities on our behalf. Our homework was to find a charity that we felt was worthy of our gift. My cousins and I looked around at each other in disbelief, but we knew better than to question Nana. The car ride home became a conversation as to why she would do such a thing. After all, we were selfish teenagers at the time. When we became adults, she decided to match when we donated to a charity.
There was actually a lot of work that went into earning this gift. We had to research all of the charity’s financials. Was the charity in debt, how much money did the CEO make, what percentage was actually going to operations, were they making an impact, and so on. In our minds, not only were we not getting a gift, but we now had to write a research paper during winter break (and I hate writing papers). Needless to say, this was not something we were excited about. Also, we had to justify why we chose this charity and why it had personal meaning to us. So, the search began. As I began looking for a worthy cause, I was surprised to see how poorly some organizations were ran, how little of a percentage of the donations actually went to the cause, and more importantly, if it made an impact at all.
Christmas morning was very different that year as we all huddled around the fireplace. Normally, it would be a bustling of opening gifts and hoping we received gift cards or cash so we could get what we really wanted. This year, it was giving speeches about what charity we chose, why we chose it, and a breakdown of their financial records. Nana accomplished her goal and every Christmas since then, giving has been the foundation of our Christmas celebration.
As a parent now, I get it. I mean, how many toys can a kid have? Now, I’m not saying “go Grinch” from here on out and forgo toys altogether, but this modeling of generosity set the stage for my life years later. As the saying goes, “More is caught than taught”. Now, we look forward to the conversations about our charities, and we see the value of sacrificing a simple gift along the way to make a larger impact on our world.
Since my children are young and not quite old enough to write research papers, we teach them about being generous through their commission jobs. We have a list of commission jobs that they can do; things beyond the normal, home maintenance chores. These jobs include tasks such as mopping, pulling the trash cans to the street, pulling weeds in the flower beds, etc. When they get paid, they divide the money into 3 categories: give, save, and spend. Weekly, they tithe their “give money”, their “save money” goes into their savings accounts, and their “spend money” goes toward shopping for whatever they want. Two years ago, they started doing the Samaritan’s Purse Operation Christmas Child Shoeboxes. They absolutely love this tradition! OCC is a program in which people from around the world pack shoeboxes full of toys and hygiene items for children in third world countries. It also opens the door to minister to these families.
We start the season of Christmas in the spirit of giving. We watch OCC’s promotional videos and start talking about what we want to buy our child. Then we go to the store. We give them the option as to how much money they want to contribute to the gift. So far, it has been all of their personal spending money. Finally, we pack our boxes, pray over them, and then wait to get an email about where our box was mailed to. This year, they also decided to buy gifts for one another. This has given us the opportunity to talk with them about budgeting for these gifts, and possibly, doing extra commission jobs to meet their goals. As we are embarking on this parenting journey, we would love to hear about what you do to teach generosity.