Dad: “What does generosity mean to you?”
Aaron: “Giving stuff to people and being happy with what they are doing.”
Jonathan: “Being kind with what you have.”
Faith: “We do three things with money: Spend, Save, and Share. Sharing is being generous.”
Sometimes my kids make me feel like I may qualify as a Good Dad some day.
Make no mistake, my kids started out as all kids do: whining, demanding, wanting to be fed, cleaned, cuddled, soothed, entertained . . . and all that RIGHT NOW! It didn’t matter if my dear wife or I were tired, sick, hungry, hurt, frustrated, or not feeling up to par. They had needs and those needs had to be fulfilled immediately!
Gradually, our kids grew older and we grew more resilient. Being a parent to a needy child may be some people’s first attempt at being truly selfless. That is to say, the moment when we first make someone else’s needs more important than our own, we have an opportunity to be truly generous.
My parents didn’t indoctrinate me nearly as much as I do my kids. That’s not to say their method of child rearing is any better or worse than what I’m doing. My folks were pretty easy going, and their approach was based on the philosophy that, “More is caught than taught.” In other words, instead of making me write an essay about being generous, or reading a church tract or having a Bible study about being generous, my parents just were generous people. As far as I can tell, their plan was that my brother and I would figure out that this was the right way to live as we observed them giving to church and charity.
I’m more methodical than my parents were when it comes to teaching my kids. Maybe because I am a teacher by training, though not presently practicing my craft in a high school environment, I want to be sure there are lesson plans and an overall curriculum. I want to be certain all the general concepts are received and practiced, and all the detailed points are covered. For example, our kids receive a commission for doing chores above and beyond regular works expected as being part of our family. Out of that money earned, we teach them to do three things: Spend, Save and Give. For my youngest, my dear Miss Faith, it’s Spend, Save, and Share. She has a piggy bank with those labels on it. Close enough for this professor.
By definition, we can’t be generous in isolation. Generosity invites community. First within our four walls, we practice being generous. As the old saying goes, “Generosity begins at home.” It doesn’t make sense to give all our money to someone in a foreign country if my kids are wearing shoes with holes, held together by duct tape, and two sizes too small. But once everyone has several pairs of decent shoes for school, play, work, and church, then it’s time to see if we can wrap up a few pairs of Nike’s for the local homeless shelter at Christmas. Our kids know how to be generous, because we dads are generous with them. When their immediate needs are met, it helps open their eyes to the unmet needs of others. It’s their invitation to practice generosity of their own.
Volunteering together is another great way to spend time together while teaching generosity. On a recent weekend, my son Aaron and I helped pack almost 15,000 meals at Convoy of Hope. Whether it was from two hours on our feet on a macaroni dinner assembly line or seeing the sheer size of the food and supplies warehoused, my son remarked that he never realized how many people had needs they couldn’t fill for themselves.
Whatever way you choose to teach your kids, be sure they both hear and see you being generous. Money is important, but not the only thing with which we can be generous. We can be generous with our time, our smiles, our handshakes, our sincere compliments, our praise, our patience, and our spirit of perseverance. As dads, we have many resources at our disposal given to us for a reason. Per my daughter, one of the best uses is to share them with others.