Mark Twain once said, “To get the full value of joy, you must have someone to divide it with.” I’m guessing Mark Twain never had three sons under the age of five.
Ah, Christmas and the American child. This season is such a mixed bag of emotions and life lessons to be learned. For twelve months of the year, we strive to teach our children that it truly is better to give than to receive, but then we come to “the most wonderful time of the year,” and the wheels on the bus of service and self-sacrifice come to a screeching stop.
It’s easy to blame the savvy marketing of large toy companies, and the endless barrage of commercials touting the wonders of the latest, hot-selling toy. But, charity really does begin at home. And beyond that, teaching our children the joy of giving begins there, as well. If the idea of our modeling the behaviors we want from our children sounds like an overused premise, so be it. What our sons and daughters see us do impact them more than we could ever know. What do they see in us when it comes to giving? Is there joy? Or, do we begrudgingly give?
Whether you are a church-goer, who believes in tithings and offerings, or a community-minded person, giving annually to your charity of choice, how happy are you about it? Do your children see you smiling as you drop the check in the plate or the coins in the Salvation Army pot? Or, do they hear you grumbling about parting with your money, or the fact that you only give for a tax write-off?
Of course, when speaking of giving, we tend to think primarily of money. But, there are so many ways for us to give and just as many ways to show our kids that it can all be joyfully done. There also are so many ways for us to give with our kids. Go, as a family, to a nursing home. Prior to going, sit around the kitchen table and make cards for the residents. Play Christmas music while you do it, eat some sugar cookies, and talk about what it must be like for those who can’t be in their own homes for the holidays. Discuss ways of making the season truly brighter for those around you.
The thing about giving, that seems to always surprise us, is that joy we personally receive from it. All of the hustling and bustling of the season becomes more than worth it when we see the delight in the face of another, and in turn, receive delight in our own hearts and lives.
May the words of Booker T. Washington live in the souls of all of us, including our children, during this season and every other day of the year: “Those who are happiest are those who do the most for others.”
Kevin Weaver, CEO of Network211 and father of three sons, lives with his wife KyAnne in Springfield, MO. He enjoys spending time with family, hunting and watching University of Kansas basketball with his boys! He can be reached at email@example.com
When we caught up with John Hilliard, he was about to deliver a refrigerated load to a customer in Orlando, Florida. John is in his eleventh year as a Prime driver. He primarily hauls food products. John’s interest in travel began when he traversed the country as a musician playing the piano. He has worked with a recording studio and some famous performers. He has also written songs for movies and television shows. When life on the road as a musician didn’t work out, John figured he might as well get his CDL and his life as a truck driver began.
John says it is his love of travel, especially over the road, that attracts him to truck driving. During his time as a driver, John has traveled through 48 states and several Canadian provinces. He loves the independence associated with being on the over-the-road driver.
When not on the road, John calls Texas his home. His two oldest children—a daughter and son—live in Houston, where others members of his extended family also reside. His two younger children live in El Paso, Texas.
You might think that being gone from home so often would diminish John’s role as a father, but he will assure you this is not true. Staying up with the activities and concerns of four kids, ages 22 to 12 is challenging, but John is quick to say that social media, phone calls, and FaceTime are a big help. Although some long-haul dads are able to arrange a regularly scheduled time to talk with their children, John says his approach is, by necessity, more random due to the variability of his children’s schedules, most of whom are working or in college. Even so, John reports talking with his 22-year-old daughter every day.
John says he makes a big deal about being available to his kids. He has even visited with his children’s teachers and told them, “Call me anytime with problems—homework, school work or otherwise.” He proudly says, “My son’s teachers have my number on speed dial.”
John says he’s out on the road a little longer now that the kids are older. Even so, he does manage to see them in person every 4-6 weeks. When he is home, he says he stays anywhere from 2-7 days. John emphasizes how important he thinks it is to talk with your kids ahead of time about being together. For John and his kids, making plans together are part of the fun.
Some of John’s fondest memories include over-the-road trips he took with his kids. During the 2005 evacuation associated with Hurricane Rita, he had all four kids with him in the truck when he drove from Texas to Seattle to get away from the storm.
John is proud of his driving ability and also trains other drivers. When he takes his kids with him, he gets to show them what their dad does. This includes showing them Cabbage Mountain in Oregon, one of the most dangerous mountains to drive in the U.S.
Other adventures with his kids include taking his oldest two to Manhattan. Once they parked the truck in a place John “knows about,” father and kids were able to tour the Empire State Building, Ground Zero, ride the subway and take the Staten Island Ferry.
But it’s not all fun and adventure. One summer, when John was concerned about his sons’ academic performance, he took them both on the truck with him where he supervised “lessons” every day. I don’t know many dads who take that much interest in their child’s school performance, but with John, it is serious business.
When asked what advice he would give to other dads, John identified four things all connect with love:
1. Say, “I love you.”
2. Do loving things.
3. Be helpful to your kids and family.
4. Give meaningful gifts.
Most of all, John says, it’s important for your kids to know you will always listen. Even though he’s often far from home, it’s easy to see that he has a strong connection with his kids.
Like many drivers, John is divorced from the mother of his kids. Even so, John says they have a decent relationship that allows them to communicate with the kids and hang out together when he is home. He says they both work to create a positive environment for the kids.
Christmas has always been my favorite holiday. As a kid, my Mom worked very hard, and though we didn't have a lot, she always made sure we had a wonderful Christmas morning. As much as I loved opening Christmas presents, I equally enjoyed watching others unwrap the gifts I had gotten for them. My grandma would always give me a few dollars, and I'd go shop for a gift for my mother. No matter how terrible the gift, she would always act as if it was the greatest thing she had ever gotten.
Now that I am a father of three, I try to show the same enthusiasm for each gift I receive from them. I have also tried to show them that Christmas should be more about giving than receiving. With kids, words don't always sink in, so you have to lead by example. Each fall, we have our closet clean out. I tell the kids to find all the clothes and toys they don't wear or play with so that we can donate to kids who do not have as much. They have actually begun to look forward to it.
Each year, my wife and I adopt a family through "Least of These,” here in Nixa, for the holidays. Last year my daughter had an assignment in one of her junior high classes. The idea was to do something to make the world better. She came to me and asked if she could adopt a family. She wanted to wrap gifts to earn money and ask for donations from others to help a family in need. I was so proud of her. She accepted a single mother with three children as her family to help out. My daughter was able to get everything from the want list. We personally delivered the gifts to the family, and my daughter loved it so much, she said, "Dad, I'm gonna do this every year."
My daughter’s 14th birthday was this past July. For her birthday party, she asked that everyone donate gift cards, toys, kids clothing or cash, so she could adopt a family again this year.
We have begun to keep care bags in our vehicle during the winter. My boys love to look for people they think may be homeless and in need of food or water. If we see someone, they enjoy handing out the bags.
You don't have to make monetary donations or buy things to help people. I donate a lot of time to various organizations, not only to help others, but to lead by example, and encourage the joy of giving to my children.
Herb Cody is a husband and father of three. He is a part time Uber driver and full time caregiver of his spouse, who suffered a traumatic brain injury after an auto accident November, 2015. Herb loves football and is a St Louis Cardinals fanatic. He and his family live in Nixa MO. Herb can be reached for questions or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org . You can check out Herb's own blog at, www.thecodylife.weebly.com
My wife recently bought me a book of quotations from Mother Teresa of Calcutta. If you can find such a book I encourage you to get one. Teach your children to be generous the same way you teach them anything.
Children are amazing. They can be taught amazing things. Children can be taught to kick a soccer ball, set a volleyball, and hit a golf ball. Children can be taught to play the violin, skate forward and backward, and operate a handheld electronic device. Children can also be taught to be generous and to put the needs of others before their own. Children can be taught to appreciate what they have. Children can be taught to share.
If our children are going to be generous then generosity needs to be the lifestyle and cultural value of our home. Generosity does not just happen by wishing or wanting it. Generosity needs to be as high a passion and priority as the other high passions and priorities of your life. Generosity takes work and effort.
Mother Teresa was a generous woman. We need to highlight and profile generous people in our children’s life. Children look up to pro athletes, actors and actresses, and musicians. Children should also be encouraged to look up to generous people.
There used to be a commercial with Michael Jordan. The jingle went like this: “I want to be, I want to be, I want to be like Mike.” Can you imagine children wanting to be like Mother Teresa or someone like her?
Ask yourself right now, “What kind of person do you want your child to grow up to be?” Would you like your children to be good at sports or music, math or science? What if you were to say, “I want my child to be a generous person.”
For you and me to raise generous children requires more than a casual conversation or a handful of change in the Salvation Army bucket at Christmas. We need to help our children set tangible and sacrificial goals with clear objectives that benefit others in need. Our children will benefit from knowing that they are blessed beyond measure and that their generosity makes a difference in the lives of others.
Here are three ways I have taught my children to be generous. I want to stress, however, that generosity is not just doing projects and generous things. Generosity is being a generous person from the inside out.
1. At birthdays, do not have children bring gifts for your child. Rather, pick a charity or a disaster relief and have children bring monetary gifts or food items to be given away.
2. Have your children mow lawns or shovel the snow off walks for free.
3. Teach your children to budget their money with a set percentage always to be given away. Start small, like 1 or 2 % with the objective of reaching a goal of 5% or 10% or more.
Children watch what we do more than listen to what we say. Teach with both actions and words to effectively promote generosity in your children.
This post first appeared on the Good Dads blog December 5, 2016. We liked it so much, we thought it worth repeating.
Jeff Sippy, a Dad-In-Training, is the father of three young men and the husband of Cindy. He enjoys sailing every chance that he gets. He is the senior pastor at Redeemer Lutheran in Springfield, MO and can be reached for question or comment at email@example.com