Cultivating Generosity

Having kids has made me realize all the more that selfishness is human nature.  I don’t know about yours, but mine aren’t exactly spending their 2’s and 3’s graciously giving up their toys and snacks.  (And let’s by honest, I have not very graciously given up things like sleeping past 6am or drinking my entire mug of coffee while it’s still warm, either.)  We have to work against our selfishness – continually – in order to experience the joy that comes with generosity.

We have to model it for our kids: through our own actions and through the stories of others.  I am constantly learning and growing.  I, too, need stories of generosity.

And that is what I love about stories like this one: One City, Two Brothers.  It speaks to me as I read it to my girls.  It provokes conversations with my 3 1/2 year old about what it means to consider the needs of others and give of oneself.  This is a story said to be told by King Solomon, and passed down through hundreds of years through churches and synagogues and mosques alike.  It is the tale of two brothers, each of whom is so filled with love and generosity for the other, that he is willing to give his time and food and even sense of security for the sake of the other.  Legend has it the place where the two brothers meet at the end of the story is the spot where Jerusalem was later built.


One City 1

Beyond stories, here are some ideas to help get you started cultivating generosity within your family.  Shout out to my sister Naphtali, former kindergarten teacher and mama extraordinaire, for helping me compile these ideas.  We’d love to hear your own in the comments below!

8 Ideas for Cultivating Generosity at Home

  1. Practice gratitude.  Gratitude for what we have forms the foundation for generosity.  Make a “thankful tree” and have each family member hang notes on it identifying specific things for which they are grateful.
  2. Begin talking about opportunities for generosity with “I wonder” statements.  For example, “I wonder how Mrs. Smith feels since she just got home from the hospital.”  This helps kids develop empathy and identify creative ways to help.
  3. Teach kids to set aside money to give to others by setting up a system of 3 jars: save, spend, and give.  When they receive birthday money/allowance, the money is divided equally between the three jars.
  4. Share your extra clothes and toys with those who need them by donating to a clothing closet, especially those that allow you to greet and get to know the families on the receiving end.
  5. Share your time as a family by walking alongside another family.  Many refugee placement programs (World Relief, IRC, etc.) offer opportunities to volunteer with a recently resettled family, and these are wonderful ways for kids to play together and learn from one another.
  6. Involve your kids when you give money to your church and/or whatever charities you choose to support.  Let them help you pick where you as a family decide to give!
  7. Share your words of encouragement by writing a letter.  This is an increasingly lost art that requires time, thought, and a wee bit of money, but can bring such great joy to those feeling lonely or distant from loved ones.
  8. Model generosity.  Allow your kids to see you giving, and talk openly about it as a family.

What about you?  What do you practice (or hope to practice) with your kids?


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