by Nancy Tichy, Author for KidZ at Heart International
Twelve year old Megan heard about a need and marshalled her resources to respond with great generosity. The challenge had been for her whole class to raise $500 over the semester to purchase a yak for a family in a faraway village. She brought in the whole sum within a week. I never learned how she managed such a large amount. Possibly a college savings account was debited?
Eight year old Marcy went with her mother on a church sponsored weekend trip to a Mexican orphanage. Once back home, she explained why she left her nearly-new tennis shoes and, even more significant, her favorite bedtime, stuffed animal with a child she met during her time south of the border. “I have so much,” she explained. “Maria has hardly anything.”
Five year old Matthew’s church joined with a small, Spanish-speaking mission outreach in the city for a summer vacation Bible school. This bilingual event broadened the English speaking kids’ horizons and increased attendance significantly in the small immigrant faith community. Soon afterwards, Matthew started kindergarten. At the first parent-teacher appointment, Matthew’s mother was surprised to learn that her very shy child had befriended a classmate, newly arrived in America, who knew no English. Then she remembered Matthew’s summer, bi-cultural experience and it made sense,
These different examples show just a few of many opportunities to be generous these days – sometimes giving to those close at hand, sometimes to people far away. It’s as if God gives us eyewear to see a needy world both close up and at a distance…spiritual bifocals, as it were. Scripture has examples of this, too. The Good Samaritan didn’t go far to begin his rescue operation. Paul collected funds for famine stricken fellow-believers in Jerusalem, some distance from their benefactors.
Your family has no doubt already developed a pattern for generosity. You respond to needs as they are presented. But most of us probably have to admit that our ‘charity lenses’ can get smudged and our altruistic vision clouded by our diverse lifestyles, multiple challenges, options and commitments. Sometimes, ‘giving’ is an adult activity only and sometimes a whole-family experience – something to give kids ownership in this grace of God. And, then, too, sometimes kids lead the way.
Why not do an all-family sharing session and evaluate where you stand right now – both as individuals and as a family unit? Generosity, like love, starts at home.
You might begin by tracing some concentric circles on a poster board. In the middle, smallest circle print the words, ‘God so loved the world that he gave.’ In the next, larger circle let each family member print in small letters (each with a different color) what he/she is doing that can be termed generosity, or charity. Remember that one of many resources to draw from is time. Some of the recipients might not be human, and they may be siblings. In the third, outer circle, record your all-family, giving projects to those outside the home.
Put the poster board up where everyone can see it and talk about what you discover by this exercise. Record your findings in your family journal. Identify individual’s giving records, look for charity that comes from the family as a whole and celebrate. Talk about where you might increase giving to gain a better balance between nearby and far away, individual and whole group. Perhaps from your conclusions you can, together, decide on some achievable goals – say for the summer, or even longer.
Remember, Jesus said that you are the salt and light of the world. Your family exists to reflect God’s generous nature and participate in the Father’s mighty works. Think about what it means for this to be true in your world and in the world at large.
Matt.5:13-16 and Psalm 145:1-7 are great passages for all-family, Bible discovery times. Go for it!