In my Personal Financial Planning class, one of the four stated objectives is Learning to Give. The syllabus explains:
Learn to give. If you cannot learn to give when you are poor (which is now), you will never learn to give when you are rich. Someone said “We make a living by what we get, but we build a life by what we give.” Giving is not determined by your checkbook, but by your heart.
I hadn’t really thought specifically about learning to give, how I learned it, or what inspired others. When thinking about it, though, it’s obvious, isn’t it? Giving is a learned attribute, something that is most often ingrained in us as children.
One of my family’s favorite Christmas stories is from when we were living in Germany many years ago. My grandparents came in to town on the train, and when my mom went to pick them up from the station they encountered an elderly woman who was alone and trying to find a place where she could get dinner on Christmas Eve. In the completely pure-hearted manner that I learned to recognize in my parents, they just scooped her up and brought her home with them to spend the holiday meal with our family.
We had five girls at home, aged about 12 years old to 2. We didn’t speak German. She didn’t speak English. But somehow that wasn’t a problem at all. We sang songs and reenacted the Nativity scene, and at the end of the evening we were eager to finish our traditions by opening one present. With this stranger in our midst, we were instantaneously transformed from gift receivers to gift givers. We ran around the house finding anything that might be appropriate for our new friend. I remember pulling a decorative little hat off the wall and wrapping it with hurried care. This sweet woman was overcome by the simple generosity of a young family, opening their home to a perfect stranger.
Twenty years later, my grandparents, parents and sisters still recount this story with lots of smiles and laughter. It’s a great memory for all of us, but it’s also more than that. As we sit around reminiscing and share this story with the next generation of children and grandchildren, we’re teaching a critical lesson. We are givers. We open our hearts and our homes to those in need. That is a scary thing to do! Life is hectic and sometimes we barely have enough resources just to get from day to day. But when we are willing to take a moment and give back, it makes life so much sweeter.
To help implement learning (and teaching) to give, this year I am going to give Kiva cards to my close friends and family. I am so excited for my little nephews to look through the website and decide which person to loan their money to and to get them thinking about the lives and circumstances of people in other parts of the world. I’m also looking into KidsasHeroes.org to see if there are any other programs that we can help support as a family.
There are thousands of opportunities to make an impact and help others. What tools and resources have you used to encourage others to learn to give?