Modeling generosity is a powerful lesson.
Every year on their birthdays, Grandma Bertha sent each of her grandchildren a birthday card with a single dollar bill in it. When I married one of her grandsons, I started getting a dollar on my birthday, too.
Every year on my birthday, my grandmother sent me a generous check.
I valued that dollar bill far more than my grandmother’s check. Grandma Bertha lived on a fixed income in a trailer in Texas. She didn’t have extra dollars, yet she still gave one every year to every one of her descendants, always accompanied by a note that showed she cared. It was gesture made out of love and true generosity.
Let me be clear, my grandmother’s check was also a gesture of love and generosity, and it was very much appreciated by a family on a tight budget! But my grandmother was not struggling to make ends meet. The lesson I learned from Grandma Bertha was that no matter how little you have, you can always share something.
That’s a lesson I’ve tried to teach my children, and one I hope my grandchildren will also learn. The best way to teach it is to do what Grandma Bertha did: model generosity.
There is more to being generous than a birthday card with a gift enclosed. Grandparents have many ways they can show their grandchildren about generosity and sharing.
We can be generous with our time. When our grandchildren see us helping a neighbor or hear about us volunteering at the local food pantry, they learn that taking time to help others is something worth doing. Even the time we give to help them with homework or do the dishes for their mother is an example of sharing. As they get older, involving them in philanthropic activities can be a powerful way to bond.
We can be generous in our attitude. Children are learning lessons when we least expect it. Letting someone go ahead of you in the supermarket checkout line, stopping your car so a pedestrian can cross, or smiling at a stranger on the street all demonstrate a generosity of spirit that can be catching.
We can be generous with our possessions. Next time you sort donations for charity, let your grandchild help, and talk about why you are passing things on to bless someone else. Have them pick out food at the grocery store for the food pantry. Let them wear your fancy shoes and send them home with the paperweight they fell in love with. Share the stories behind the things in your home that were passed down to you, like the kitchen table that’s been pawned off on newlyweds for three generations.
We can be generous with our love. It is usually easy to love our grandchildren generously! Just remember that your grandchildren are also learning about sharing from how you treat the other people they love. If you have a difficult relationship with one of their parents, or don’t like the other grandparents, it’s crucial to keep those feelings from emerging when your grandchildren are around. They will also notice if you don’t treat their cousins or siblings equally. True generosity isn’t conditional.
Generosity is at the heart of sharing. By showing our grandchildren how to be generous, they will grow up sharing--no matter how little they have.