How can I cultivate a generous heart?
A generous heart is not an easy thing to create in a world so filled with entitlement.
Take me for example. It seems I’m reminded of things I want or “need” at every turn by friends, television, social media, the “Jones” next door.
Clothes, toys, entertainment, comfort food—I’ve always got something on my wish list, something I “can’t live without”.
This entitlement attitude of mine has turned into a problem in our home, a problem that is multiplying rapidly, for no matter how often I ask my children to do what I SAY rather than what I DO, they just won’t listen.
Why is this? Why on earth is it that my children always end up doing what I do versus what I say to do? I mean, really. Who designed it to work this way?
Sheesh! This parenting thing would be so much easier if I could just find a way to hide all my little (and, ahem, massive) imperfections–pack them away and bury them in the recesses of my closet, where I can ASSURE you they would never be found. (But, hey, that’s a topic for another day…)
Until that time comes, that day when all my imperfections become perfectly and wondrously invisible, I’ve decided that I am going to need an alternative plan– a plan to rid our home of this entitlement problem once and for all.
So I ask myself, and you, if you care to tag along:
How is it possible to create within ourselves and our children a heart for giving?
How might we take the focus off ourselves and place it on others?
(I mean, seriously! Why must I, of necessity, be reminded over and over again that true joy comes from giving rather than receiving?)
What sacrifices are we as a family willing to make to bless the lives of others?
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A GENEROUS HEART: THE HOW
I’ve learned over the years that I gain the most inspiration from listening to the experiences of others.
Such was the case recently when I read Giving It All Away…And Getting It All Back Again by David Green, the founder of Hobby Lobby.
In the book the author shares the importance of putting God first, increasing in humility, and creating a legacy—three things that have brought him the success and happiness he now enjoys.
“Giving it all away and getting it all back again” is an intriguing concept, to say the least, so I sat my children down one afternoon and presented to them the idea of a “Caring Can”, a kid-friendly version of the way David Green and his family contribute to those in need on a monthly basis.
“A Caring…what?” my daughter asked.
“A Caring Can,” I replied. “A place for us to collect money to donate to someone in need.”
I continued, though they didn’t seem too thrilled with the idea.
“Each month you’ll put 10% of your allowance into the can.”
“Awe, man. Do we have to?” asked another daughter.
“Yes,” I affirmed, not yet ready to give up on the idea of encouraging generous hearts in our home. “You’re welcome to contribute more than 10%, but I encourage you to put in at least 10%, in addition to putting away 10% for tithing and 20% for savings.”
(My son’s budgeting envelopes that he made at a scout activity)
The children sighed, and I could almost visualize what was going on in their heads as they mentally crossed off the items on their Wish List– items they would no longer be able to afford, thanks to mom’s “crazy idea”.
“The first thing we need to do is determine who will receive our money or the items that we’ll purchase with our money,” I suggested.
The kids looked at me reluctantly, boredom oozing from their faces.
Two opportunities for giving had recently been brought to my attention. Both opportunities involved children. I shared these opportunities with my kids and was relieved to see a genuine spark of interest in their eyes.
“You mean we can use our money to help these kids?” they asked, suddenly very interested in the subject. “We can send them our money, or buy things they need and mail the items to them?”
“Yes,” I said.
“And we can give more than 10% of our money if we want to?” my daughter asked. “Because I want to,” she said, with an excited smile.
Their enthusiasm continued to build as we discussed other ideas for giving generously. With a few concrete plans in place for the coming months, we are now eager to start saving our money–MORE than 10%–to donate to someone in need.
I can’t wait to see where this adventure in giving with a generous heart leads us.
With any luck, it will be to a place that involves humility, a legacy…and fewer personal Wish Lists.
A GENEROUS HEART: THE WHY
Fast forward to a week after our “Caring Can” discussion. I’m soaking in the tub at the end of a long day, reading Beyond Courage, a WWII storybook by Doreen Rappaport:
Only a few pages into the book the water level in the tub began rising due to the tears that were dripping down my face.
Drip. Drip. Drop.
So. many. tears.
How can one explain the inaction of certain countries during the war—inaction that cost so many children their lives? Children who were just as precious and deeply loved as your own.
It’s difficult to comprehend the amount of courage it takes to risk your own life to save another, yet it happened time and time again during WWII.
The people in these stories, filled with such purpose, selflessness, and courage, inspired me to greater heights long before I reached down to pull the plug in the tub.
“I want their courage. I want their compassion. I want their charity.” I said the words aloud as my previous self-absorption melted away like the water that flowed down the drain.
My heart, on the verge of bursting from a mixture of gratitude and anguish for these people who had sacrificed so much, suddenly had no desire for anything on my “Wish List”. My only desire was to fill the “Caring Can” as soon as possible. As often as possible.
To our list of potential recipients of our “Caring Can” earnings, I’ve added local refugee resettlement organizations. I’d like to think that if I had been alive during WWII, I would have reached out to help those in need, those traumatized immigrants trying to flee the horrific conditions of their country. Today, I have the opportunity to prove it by helping to provide a warm welcome to immigrants who are currently fleeing war-torn countries. Women just like you. Men just like your husbands and fathers. Children just like your own.
I have been inspired. My heart has changed its focus.
Such is the power of good books. Such is the power of shared stories.
What legacy will I leave my children?
What legacy will my children leave the world?
The answer to these questions will be determined by the state of our hearts. Will we spend our lives opening our hearts, sharing our hearts with others? Or will we keep our hearts to ourselves, safe and close, with our personal, self-oriented Wish List clasped tightly in hand?
True, lasting joy is found in giving, in having a generous heart.
While I have no plans for giving up my Wish List for good, it now contains more things for others than it does for myself.
And that feels good.
JOIN THE DISCUSSION: How do you encourage more generosity in your own life and in the lives of your children? What are your favorite resources for giving with a generous heart?
My life has been blessed by the generosity of strangers. Read more here: The Kindness of Strangers
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