Monday, May 24, 2010

Nurturing a Giving Spirit

One of my hopes as a mother and as a person of faith is that I will nurture within my children a giving spirit. I am aware that there are many ways to do this both within our home and family relationships and also outside of our home.

Over this past month or two I have been excited to find several opportunities to nurture this in our four-year-old outside our home.

One day recently as I was feeling overwhelmed by all the stuff in our house and particularly amazed at how much two little boys accumulate, it occured to me that the four-year-old is old enough to help me with the process of going through things. So, he and I set out to go through drawers of toys, shelves of books, and stacks of clothes. One by one we looked at an item and decided that it 1) should be kept 2) needed to be tossed or 3) could be shared. At the end of our day, he had made a generous pile of items to be shared. His mommy was pleased.

My next realization came when I went to share those items. I made the choice to do that through our local ecumenical food/clothing pantry (where we can also take toys and household items). Our church has one day each month when we volunteer at this pantry. On that day we hang up clothes, give out food, help people find what they are looking for and needing. When that day rolled around last month I had another epiphany. The four-year-old could go with me and help! So, we dropped the two-year-old at daycare (I wasn't ready for his help, too) and headed out. The four-year-old only lasted an hour but during that time he folded towels and pillowcases, put shoes on racks, put toys and books in bins and filled one family's food order. And he and his mommy were both pleased with the work he had done.

Last week another opportunity arose. My husband and I, along with some others from our church, went to my hometown to help with continuing recovery from a flood two years ago. Since it was my hometown (with family still there) the boys went with us. At two and four years of age, they were too young to actually work on the sites, but we talked about what mommy and daddy and the others were doing. And a couple of times we made sure they could come by the work sites and see the work in progress. I was pleased as they witnessed adults they knew and some they had never met before taking time out to rebuild people's homes.

What about you? How do you nurture a giving spirit in your children? What have you found helpful as you teach them about sharing with others? I'd love to hear.

And perhaps, someday, I'll figure out how to nurture a spirit giving enough for the four-year-old to share his red ball with the two-year-old when they're playing in the backyard.

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