Friday, December 2, 2011

What Does It Mean To Be Generous?

Children volunteering
It's the season of giving and I love using this theme in my guidance lessons this month.  In one class, we have watched videos of students who have given back to the community by providing gifts for foster children and another video of a student who as a cancer survivor, regularly visits other children in the hospital who are facing cancer treatment.  We have read a book or two about children who have used their birthday parties to collect food for pets at the local pet shelter.  Students of course have their own personal stories of giving and I like to involve them in thinking about and planning times to be generous to others all through the year.  We finish the lessons with a writing exercise where students answer two questions.  When was a time that you were generous to someone else?  What can you do to be generous in the future?  There are lots of creative and thoughtful answers with everything from helping endangered species to walking an elderly person across the street.  Of course there are always a few that crack me up... Here's my favorite:  Answer to the first question:  Once I gave my mom a flower for mother's day.  Answer to question number two:  I can get a luxury car for my mom.  I'm thinking, I'm signing up to be that kid's mom...

Developing the notion of generosity however is an important antidote to the natural self-centeredness of the typical child.  It is something that can be started early in small ways and then developed into bigger projects as the child grows. Too many children in this country (and adults for that matter) are insulated from the inequalties, the hardship in the world. Developing service projects as whole families is one way to overcome this. Determining the child's interests and concerns and then finding ways to serve in those areas is the best way to get cooperation. Taking into consideration the personality of the family members involved (as in all family projects) is critical as well.  Some children are better at being the leader while others are less likely to take on a leadership role but are quite dedicated workers. Age is of course a factor as well but even young children can learn to give food, toys or clothing to those in need. The best and most life changing service however, is service that involves giving of more than our excess. It involves giving something more substantional such as spending a Saturday morning in a soup kitchen for the homeless, or volunteering in a nursing home to visit with residents who have no family. It's cleaning up a park or helping out at an animal shelter. Service that moves us out of our comfort zone and challenges us to make a difference in the world develops children and ultimately adults, of compassion and character.

I'm a big Dave Ramsey fan and love all of his children's books!  Here's a good one for children on the imprtance of giving:

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