Lessons in the Spirit of Giving
"But I want this toy," she said tearfully, clutching the the alligator Lego to her chest. I didn't really know what to do.
I probably shouldn't have brought her to drop off the bag of unwrapped toys to the fire hall for donation. But I did have the best intentions; I thought that she would get to see some firefighters and hopefully, get a sense that we were doing something good. But instead, we were at an impasse in the wet snow outside of the empty fire station. Should we abandon the do-gooder project? Should I let her keep the Lego?
What happened next is straight from an after-school special. Two fire trucks pulled up and one of the firefighters jumped off. I was a bit embarrassed at the ugly scene as he made his way over to us.
"Are you here to drop off some toys?" he asked my four-year-old daughter. She nodded mournfully.
"That is very special. You must be a very special person to come here and give toys to kids who need some." She eyed him suspiciously.
"I can see you really like the toy that you are holding, I will make sure that a very special child gets this toy. Because of you, some kids will wake up Christmas morning to presents, which is an amazing thing," he said kindly. "Do you want to give me that toy?"
Jenna looked up through her tear-stained lashes and walked painstakingly over. To be honest, I didn't think she was going to give it to him. But she very slowly handed it over.
"Thank you, princess. I will make sure someone gets this toy who will really, really will love it. You are very special."
I handed the firefighter the bag of toys, thankful that an understanding firefighter had done his job.
I put Jenna into her seat, and we started to drive off. I was going to say that I knew that was hard, but it was worth it. But she interrupted my thoughts to say: "Mummy? I'M STILL REALLY, REALLY MAD AT YOU!!"
Instilling the spirit of giving is very difficult.
I had more luck with son number two. We were heading out to a holiday party and I wanted to do a donation using the Unicef Gifts of Magic instead of bringing a bottle of wine or some soap or something I had hiding in my re-gift drawer. (Thanks to Alison at Nummies Bras for the reminder.)
We looked over the site and I was quite affected by how easy it is to give and also by how much needs to be given. I had thought my son would want to give a gift of play such as a soccer set, but after looking it over he decided that he wanted to give the gift of education and send someone to school. I wondered if he wanted to send someone to school so that they had to suffer like he does, but no, he understands that school is important. We clicked, and talked about how instead of buying a gift and taking it to our friend's house we were sending money so a child could go to school. This then turned into a conversation about why some kids can't afford to go to school and why he can.
I think he understood the correlation between helping people and a gift but of course it was bit easier for him; he wasn't clutching something to his chest and being asked to give it to a man with big boots.
Teaching kids about those less fortunate is hard, and it never feels like the message is truly sinking in. But I keep trying on many different fronts and hope that the spirit of giving is taking root.
How do you teach your kids to give to those who are less fortunate? Do you think they understand? How do you teach them about the spirit of giving?
Update: If you need a little reminder about the spirit of giving (and we all do at this time of year) read what happened when The Blogess wanted to give a little money away to some families in need and how it snowballed into an amazing campaign.
Want more? Last year I was writing about using Tips from the Dog Whisperer on my kids.