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Teaching children to be givers

There are givers and there are takers in this world. Some always have a hand out waiting for the next gift or good deed to be given to them. The takers dwell in an attitude of need and greed, waiting for the next time they are given something by others.

On the other hand, givers are those who pass through this world, seeing legitimate needs and try to make a difference. Givers respond to the opportunities around them to give, whether it is a matter of time, money, or material things in their possession. A true giver doesn’t respond for the glory, praise, or thanks that might come and often works anonymously.

There are seasons in life when we need help from others. There are times when we might need to allow others to give to us when we’d rather be able to take care of our own needs. There is nothing wrong with that. We need to experience the humility that comes with being in need. It is much harder for me to receive help than to give it, and harder to accept a gift than to hand one out. I have struggled at different times in my life and was so thankful for the help that came.

Even in my lowest moments, and most broken bits of my life, I never stopped giving. I always found a way to give to those around me, whether it was my time, prayers, something cooked, or a personal item in my possession that I knew would be a blessing to someone else. When I give of what I have, I have discovered that I am never empty. As long as I give, I have more than enough.

I believe part of the difference between being a giver and a taker is what children learn when they are young. We have to be very careful not to create within children an attitude of entitlement in their formative years.

Some parents think they have to give their children anything and everything they want, even when what they want is impractical or not age appropriate. Many children learn that if they scream loud enough or use the thought, “Everyone else has it. I’ll be the only one who doesn’t have one,” they can get their parents to respond. A lot of the time it works.

There is also a pattern of parents giving their children more than they need or appreciate because as they were growing up, they felt a sense of “lack.” Their memories of not having had what they wanted or needed as a child will often cause them to indulge their children in excess of their need.

If a child is going to be a balanced human being, they need to learn to give and receive graciously. For my birthday recently, my grandchildren wrote birthday letters (at ages 7 and 5) full of stickers and hearts. When I saw them in person, my grandson let me record him reading the 23rd Psalm and my granddaughter let me record her singing, Mary, Did You Know. These were precious gifts to me that didn’t require money but came from their hearts.

My grandson found a dollar bill and wanted me to have it in case I needed it to help pay for the gifts we had purchased when I took them Christmas shopping. He did the same with a shiny penny he found in the parking lot. I accepted his small offerings because I knew in his heart, he was learning the joy of giving.

Reach longtime Enterprise columnist Judith Victoria Hensley at judith99@bellsouth.net or on Facebook. Check out her blog: One Step Beyond the Door.