I learned a valuable life-lesson one frosty, snow-covered, Illinois night. My family was travelling back from a relative’s birthday soirée. The party was an hour’s drive away (we measure distance by time in the Midwest) and the roads were treacherous. We were nearly home, when we slid off the country highway and into a ditch filled with a two-foot-thick layer of packed powder.
My dad, brother and I struggled to push the car out while my mom steered and little sister slumbered away in the backseat. A car passed right by us, without so much as an “Are you okay?” out the window.
When we finally got our mini-van back on the road, we came upon a car in the ditch, about a mile down the road. Even though we were frozen, tired and exhausted, my dad pulled to the side and hopped out. When we climbed down into the ditch, it turned out to be the same folks who had passed us by 20 minutes earlier. After we got them back on the road safely, I asked my dad why he stopped. After all, they drove right past us without showing any concern. His reply was simple, but it changed my life forever.
“Because they were in trouble, and we could help.”
Teaching your children about charity is a hands-on endeavor. It’s a series of lessons learned through your example.
When I was growing up, my family participated in church food-drives and organization-sponsored fundraisers, but charity is a much deeper concept. While these are wonderful opportunities for contributing, giving doesn’t always require social prompts. There are oodles of ways to help your loved-ones, as well as your local, national and global community.
Charity isn’t just about making a financial contribution to a cause. In fact, donating time, skills and unused resources are just as valuable to the recipient as any monetary gift. To pass the torch of charity to your kids, you have to live the lesson you’re trying to teach.
Ways to Help the World Around You
If you haven’t got a ton of spare cash sitting around, volunteering your time is a much-appreciated alternative. Your family can work in a soup kitchen, clean up litter in a park, care for animals at an animal shelter, serve refreshments at a blood drive or help out at a fund-raising event.
Does your workplace toss office supplies or outdated furniture? Has it been ages since you’ve cleaned out your cabinets or attic? Did you finish a project and have leftover building materials taking up space in your garage, shed or basement? What may lack value in your home, may be just the leg-up a local charitable office or family might need.
Every community has non-profit organizations. Give one a call and see if they, or someone they know, can benefit from things you no longer use. There are even national organizations who will come and pick up the old jalopy that’s been darkening your driveway for five years.
Share Your Skills
Everyone has a talent for something. Whether you have a trade skill like carpentry, writing or sewing or a natural aptitude for baking, math or bowling, someone can use your skills. Fixing up a house or giving an underprivileged child a chance to hit the lanes for the first time is a special gift that only someone with your expertise can give. Think about your strengths and then consider who could benefit from them.
Whatever you decide to do, your kids will learn a lesson in giving. Involve them with what you’re doing as much as you can. There’s no greater gift to your community than teaching your children to be charitable in their actions.
Jessi Arias-Cooper is the senior writer and an editor for Advice4Parenting.com. She is a work-from-home mother of 3 boys and has been married for 10 years. If she had time for hobbies and interests outside of parenting and keeping house, they would be jewelry making, baking, watching bad B-movie horror flicks and creative writing . If you have a question for Jessi, click here.