If you watch the news, it would be easy to assume that the world is a horrible place lacking in love, compassion, and generosity. What we often miss are the everyday moments of human kindness that don’t get a lot publicity.
People have an innate desire to help one another. Generosity is not about donating large sums of money or trying to be the next Mother Teresa. It’s about sharing a part of yourself with another human being in a way that will positively impact his or her life. From simple gestures such as letting someone cut in front of you at the grocery store to helping a neighbor repair his roof, unselfishness is constantly on display.
I’ve tried to teach this lesson to my children. As a family we’ve made care packages for homeless men and women and volunteered to serve meals during holidays. These acts didn’t require a lot of money, but they did require a sacrifice of time which I believe is more valuable.
While these service projects were great, I try to emphasize daily acts of generosity that impact the people we interact with regularly. Sometimes I’m not sure if the lessons I try to teach my children are sinking in, but my daughter and a group of her friends showed me that they understood the true meaning of generosity.
It all started with a girl named Lily. Just like many other teenagers, she liked to watch movies, listen to music, and hang out with her friends. However, there was one thing about Lily that made her a bit different – she had cancer.
My daughter met Lily through a mutual acquaintance at our church who asked her if she’d be willing to join a group of girls who visited Lily at least once a week. Although she didn’t know Lily personally, my daughter agreed to spend Saturdays with her. I must admit that I was a little surprised that my daughter volunteered because it would mean missing out on family activities and hanging out with her best friends.
Over the next few weeks, the girls spent many hours laughing, talking, watching DVDs, and playing video games. My daughter, who is a skilled fingernail artists, would paint Lily’s nails. She told me that Lily was extremely happy to get her nails painted because she had never had them done before.
It may seem as if my daughter and her friends were the only ones doling out generosity, but they weren’t. Lily taught them many lessons about sharing and gratitude during their time together. My daughter was awestruck when she saw much joy Lily received from the simple things most kids take for granted such as going to the movies, getting her nails done, or spending time with friends. Because of Lily’s example, my daughter has learned to be more grateful for the things that she has and more giving of her time and talents.
Sadly, my daughter’s time with Lily was cut short. Lily died a few weeks after they met and my daughter was devastated. In her mind, only old people die – not 13 year old girls. And certainly not one of her friends. Although she grieved the loss of her friend, my daughter cherished the time they had together and decided to keep Lily’s legacy alive by continuing to invest in other people’s lives.
Now my daughter spends her time caring for preschoolers on Sunday mornings. She pours her heart and soul into the children and teaches them about friendship, kindness, and generosity.
Lily would be proud.
Join the conversation: How to you teach your children to be generous?
Disclosure: This post was sponsored by author T. A. Barron and was inspired by his upcoming gift book “The Wisdom of Merlin: 7 Magical Words for a Meaningful Life.” This book is the wizard Merlin’s answer to the question “What is the meaning of life?” Surprisingly, the answer has only seven words — including generosity. But they are the most powerful words of all. The Wisdom of Merlin is available for preorder now, and will be available wherever books are sold on March 23, 2015.