Yesterday afternoon the UPS truck pulled up and left two huge boxes on the doorstep - both had come from our daughter Naomi, and her husband, Craig. Inside, there must have been a dozen brightly wrapped presents with bows and ribbon and all the festive overload she could muster!
If we did one thing well as parents then it was teaching the children a little about generosity. Gratitude - Promise - Faith - Hope - Thanksgiving - Generosity... these are all words that take on meaning over years of practice and of living the concepts out loud.
There's one story that I shared with my on-line class a few days ago, and it illustrates a little of the process. It's called "The Scooter Episode":
Every year, back when we lived in Pensacola, our church (Trinity Presbyterian) sponsored an "Angel Tree" for needy children from an under-resourced elementary school in an impoverished community. During the year folk from the church tutored, participate in work-projects, sponsored field trips etc. etc., literally pouring themselves into the situation.
Our children, Andrew and Naomi, always picked names of kids that matched their ages. Then we'd shop together. One year - I think they were eight and six - scooters were the "hot" item; they were all Andrew and Naomi had talked about for months on end. But times were lean and there was hardly room in the family budget for two scooters, let alone four...
"Besides," we said, "we're not supposed to spend too much on the Angel Tree kids" (something about a rift in the space-time continuum..!). Our angels had both written in "scooter", but they tended to wish for all sorts of things they knew they'd never see: "A BMW" "A new house" "A ride in the Space Shuttle" "My mom and dad back together again..."
So we went to the store, filling out the items on the angel cards. Andrew and Naomi disappeared, and came back ten minutes later with two very cool-looking scooters.
"Hey," we said. "The parents get to pick out your Christmas presents! You have to wait for Christmas Eve and see what happens."
"They're not for us," they said - evidently agreeing on something for the first time in history. "We know we can't get four, but these scooters are for our Angel kids..."
Yes, we were amazed. Our children were/are awesome! We realized they actually "got it."
But this next part is most important - it's how we made sure they really understood what they had done. Some of our friends told us we needed to find the extra money somehow, that we needed to surprise our children with scooters on Christmas Day - kind of a "reward" for doing the right thing and being so generous...
...But that would have missed the point, and the lesson would have lost its real impact. There were no scooters for Andrew and Naomi - it turns out there never were. But there was JOY - the kind that comes out of understanding the real meaning of LOVE...
Generosity may be a spiritual gift - but it's a gift we can all cultivate, and a gift we can return to the world round us.
In the true spirit of Christmas - DEREK
Picture at left - 2009 at Maul hall