One day our family was walking downtown when we came across a homeless man. As we walked past him, I caught a glimpse of my four-year old’s face. As her face fell, I wondered what she was thinking or feeling. So once we were out of earshot, I stopped and crouched down to her level asking, “What’s wrong?”.
She asked, “Mommy, why is he here? Where is his home?”
I explained that he didn’t have a home, and then gave her a $10 bill and told her she could share with him. I held her hand as she lead the way back to talk to him. My quiet four year old held out the money and gently told him, “You can go buy food and you can have a good day!” He looked genuinely touched and told her she was so beautiful.
I’m often amazed when I watch my little preschool daughters and see how easy it is for them to be generous and compassionate. Now, don’t get me wrong, my kids fight and have had to learn how to share with each other. In fact, they recently had an argument in front of our church over who would carry a pink bouquet of flowers and who would carry the yellow bouquet- which caused a series of giggles and stifled laughs from people in the congregation.
Of course, anyone who has spent time with a stubborn toddler knows that their strong will has to be guided, but there are moments when their persistence and love astound me. Children have a wonderful capacity for acting on their feelings regardless of who is watching, and they don’t stop to worry about what other people will think of them. They don’t hesitate: when they make up their minds to do something, they’re going to follow through! What a wonderful treasure and huge responsibility it is to be entrusted with molding and setting an example for these generous little hearts.
So often, our children won’t learn through us repeatedly telling them to share. Rather, they learn through the examples we set by living generously, and when we encourage them to listen to their hearts when they feel the need to be generous.
If we as parents are generous with our time, resources, money, patience, and talents, our children will pick up on that. If we hope for our children to have generous hearts, we need to question how generous we are too. Quite often, they learn through what we do, more than what we say.
“It’s not how much we give but how much love we put into giving.”