Learning to Give

By on November 11, 2012

By Nancie Carmichael –

One day when I had two of my grandsons with me in the car (Hogan, six, and Pearson, 4) we saw a homeless man on the street corner with a sign: “Will work for food.” As we waited for the light to turn, Hogan asked me from the backseat, “What does that sign say?” I reluctantly told him the man needed help, wanting to shield him from the harsh realities of life. “And why does he have that sleeping bag? Is he camping?” he persisted. “Well, because that’s where he sleeps at night,” I answered.

By that time, the light changed and we were off. We were on a tight schedule and had errands to run. As we drove down the highway, Hogan was greatly disturbed to think that that man didn’t have a home. He couldn’t understand it. I didn’t go into the fact that maybe the man was on drugs, and that we shouldn’t give money to him. But later that day, I wish I had taken the time to buy some groceries to give him, or give him some food. Teachable moments just show up, and we must grab them when they do.

The biggest lessons of life are more easily caught than taught. I remember once being with my young daughter when we were pulling out of a grocery store, and again, being confronted by a woman with a sign asking for good. She said, “Mom, let’s share some of our groceries with her.” I am so glad I took the time to turn around in the parking lot, put together some groceries for the woman.  My daughter speaks of that time frequently, and I’m so glad we did that simple act of sharing. At the time, it seemed so small, yet she remembers it still.

Giving doesn’t mean just giving things or money, although that’s part of it. Holidays are great opportunities for children to learn the bigger lessons of giving out of what we have. This is a good time of year to go through the closet, the toy box and sports gear and make a stack of useful things to give away that we may not need or have outgrown. This also models for our children the concept of recycling.

At the shopping mall, we can stop at the giving tree and select a child or two to add to our gift list. But we can also go a step further: do a little investigating to find a family in need; find out what kind of clothes and toys they would like and buy them new things. While it’s good to give to organizations, if you can put actual names and faces on your recipient, it leaves a lasting impression on your children.

I’m grateful to see my married children teaching by example what it means to give. A couple of Christmases ago, our whole family “adopted” a local single mom and her two sons who were struggling financially. After we dropped off new gloves, hats, coats, toys, and a turkey with all the trimmings, somehow our own celebration was sweeter.

Giving doesn’t come naturally to most of us—we must cultivate it, in ourselves and in our families, and this holiday season is a wonderful time to teach our children what it means to give. We can lecture our children about what it means to be generous, but actually modeling it is the most effective way to teach it.

The needs around us can seem so overwhelming we don’t know how to respond, so we don’t. But we don’t have to take on the world—maybe just one gift for one person, or one family. Or simply taking time to take soup next door to a sick friend and ask, “How are you?” and mean it. A little visit from the children to an older neighbor; or to a nursing home or to an elderly relative brings sunshine to them like nothing else can.

As Mother Teresa said, “We can do small things with great love.”

Nancie Carmichael graduated in 2012 from George Fox Evangelical Seminary with her MA in Spiritual Formation. She is a speaker and author of several books, including, “Lord, Bless My Child” (with her husband, Bill)“Selah—Time to Stop, Think, and Step into Your Future;” “Surviving One Bad Year—Seven Spiritual Strategies to Lead You to a New Beginning”. Contact her at [email protected] and visit her website, nanciecarmichael.com. Twitter: @nanawriter.

 

Nancie Carmichael

About Nancie Carmichael

Nancie Carmichael and her husband Bill have been involved with the writing and publishing field for many years as they published Virtue Magazine and Christian Parenting Magazine. They now own a book publishing company, Deep River Books. Nancie and Bill have written several books together including: Lord, Bless My Child; and Seven Habits of a Healthy Home. Nancie has written: Your life, God’s Home; Desperate for God: How He Meet Us When We Pray; The Comforting Presence of God; Selah: Time to Stop, Think, and Step into your Future; and her latest book, Surviving One Bad Year—Seven Spiritual Strategies to Lead You to a New Beginning. Bill and Nancie make their home in the Cascade Mountains of Oregon and are parents to five married children and grandparents to ten. Nancie received her Master’s of Spiritual Formation from George Fox Evangelical Seminary in 2012, and in 2005, received an Honorary Doctorate in Humane Letters from Western Baptist College. Website: nanciecarmichael.com

2 Comments

  1. Sandra at Thistle Co

    November 11, 2012 at 4:50 pm

    A friend works for a large Southern city and she suggests I give money, etc. to Salvation Army and other organizations that provide help. My friend tells me the “homeless” in her city are very well organized…they have a President, Vice President and a Secretary. The meet monthly and decide who gets on what street corner…some corners are Very lucrative and others not so much…on what day. They have a rotation system which works very well in allowing some of them to “make” a lot of money.
    I am not suggesting all people who beg don’t need the help but I am suggesting there are ways of helping that extend beyond the immediate. I’ve known people to hold up signs “will work for food” and when approached with work, they suddenly have other things they have to do.
    Some folks are in dire need of help while others are working the system for money.

    • Nancie

      November 13, 2012 at 2:01 pm

      Sandra,
      That is a great suggestion, and gives me a good idea of how to go forward with teaching the value of giving.
      Thank you!

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Learning to Give