Saturday, June 27, 2015

Teaching Generosity

Original Photo from Pixabay. Modified by Shannon Ball.

13th Sunday of Ordinary Time

This Sunday, the second reading will be from 2 Corinthians 8: 7, 9, 13-15, As usual, I am going to suggest that you read more: verses 1-15, and the other readings.

So… what is “this gracious act,” that St. Paul refers to?

I initially struggled with it by looking at the other readings, and I narrowed it down… but it was only when I looked for more context that I understood that Paul spoke in particular about generosity.

What really struck me about what Paul says about generosity is that it is something he encourages believers to learn along with every other good thing.

If it is something that we should learn to practice as we learn every other good thing, then it is incumbent upon the parents to train up their children in the practice of the virtue of generosity.

How does one go about doing this? After all, very small children don’t have the means to make regular donations at church, and they definitely don’t have the ability to be going out to get gifts for the people they love. How can we teach our children to give generously when they don’t have anything to give.

Here are 5 ideas for ways to foster generosity in your children.

(1) Cull their toys, and donate the ones they don’t need.
Get their help finding the toys they don’t play with any more, or that they are too old for, and go as a family to give those toys to a local charity center.
(2) Make gifts for people.
They might not be able to buy gifts for people, but that doesn’t mean they can’t give them. Spend some time letting them draw Daddy a picture for Father’s Day, or help them make a card for their Granny for their birthday. They feel awesome about making it “all by themselves,” and everybody loves getting bad drawings from three-year-olds.
(3) Speak of things that they are able to do as “gifts”.
There’s no reason not to treat actions as a kind of gift. Anything they do that you can praise them for (playing nicely with siblings, helping collect dirty clothes, behaving well at mass, welcoming a new child into the play group), can be understood as a gift, either to you, or to someone else.
Understanding these things as “gifts” both encourages the good behavior, and makes them want to seek other gifts they can give to people - because giving someone a gift makes you feel good, even more so when it costs nothing for you to give.
(4) Let them put the envelope in the collection at church.
The weekly collection is an able teaching moment for generosity, not just a fun moment in mass. I have very vivid memories of my father going every week to his sock drawer to retrieve the weekly envelope, and either he or my mother writing the check. And my sister and I both wanted to be the one to put the offering in the basket. It was a big deal. And I think that this impressed on me the importance of giving to the church.

Because of this, I’m not a fan of the automated giving services that are becoming popular among parishes because it deprives parents of the ability to use it as a teaching moment. It’s hard enough to convince a child that paper is real money, or that a check is real money, let alone something that isn’t even happening in front of them.
(5) Consider starting to teach money management early.
This will probably mean that they need money to manage starting early, and that’s something that will require some discernment. Dave Ramsey recommends a strategy for allowances that makes a lot of sense for young children.

His kids, he said, received three dollars: one for spending, one for saving, and one for giving.  Now, for very small kids, coins have more value because they are shiny and make noise, so it may be more worthwhile to give them three quarters or dimes.
(6) Be the example.
I noticed what my parents did each week, and having watched Pitter Patter and other small children imitate their elders, I don’t think I’m weird.  If your children see you give generously, they will understand it as something they should do.

Let’s Pray:

Giver of every good gift, take our hearts of stone, and give us hearts for giving. Give us the grace to set good examples for our children, that they might learn to follow that example and be willing and cheerful givers, which we know you love to see in your children.


Again, I apologize very much for the delay on this post. The last few days have been pretty crazy!

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