I often wonder if I’m making mistakes regarding how I raise my children (as, I assume, do most parents). It’s difficult to find the balance between neglect and coddling, between telling too much or too little.
It’s also difficult to know how you’re really doing, as parents, until your kids get quite a bit older and start making decisions on their own. There aren’t quarterly assessments that rate these things (as I have always wished there were).
One of the things that I’ve tried to teach my children is that they should care for the plight of others AND do so without being naively taken advantage of. We live in a relatively urban area and frequently encounter people (homeless and otherwise) asking for help in some form or other – often money.
‘Giving money to strangers can be dangerous – they could hurt you in order to steal your wallet.’
‘Giving money to strangers can leave you feeling taken advantage of – like I felt when I was in high school and shared my tips with a man whom I later saw walking out of the liquor store across the street.’
‘Giving to strangers can also be so, incredibly rewarding – leaving you feeling that you were able to help another person, that YOU were able to make a difference.’
‘God wants us to share what He’s given us with others (as you do unto the least of these, you do also unto me).’
Aaron and I have discussed the above points and more with the children at various times, hoping that they would grow up being both generous and discerning. We’ve also shared that giving a person food, or work can be far better (for everyone involved) than handing him or her money.
Today I received insight into how well my teaching is sinking in with my children and I am so proud.
On early dismissal days many of the children that attend my kids’ school go out for lunch together. Today, there was a man (apparently homeless) who was asking for money in order to buy lunch. When the man asked him, Zak said that he didn’t have any money and was left alone.
Coincidentally, today was also ‘Customer Appreciation Day’ at the sandwich shop and Zak won a free toasted sandwich (which he didn’t want). As Zak was eating his (non-toasted) sandwich with his friends it occurred to him that he should give the certificate to the homeless man – who (thankfully) accepted it and had his lunch there as well.
When Zak shared this story with me it was clear that this act of giving was a positive experience for him and I was thrilled to know that he’d been paying attention both to our lessons and to the needs of another.
It seems that, at least in this area, our values are being passed on just fine…