Greediness & Sharing


Yesterday my daughter had her birthday “Party Day.”  She was born near Christmas, and so we recognize her birthday a month or so late when her friends are back in school. I love celebrating my children’s birthdays, but, to be entirely honest, I feel squeamish with all of the gifts they get.  Don’t get me wrong; they LOVE it, and we are all grateful for the generosity we experience from our family and friends. It just feels like so much – a couple of presents from us, a few from grandparents/siblings, and then gifts from kids who come to the party.  When you add it all up, it can be quite a truckload of stuff.

Getting lots of gifts is one thing, but I worry more that all of this consumption will lead to greediness.  I’ve heard it said that things too-easily acquired are devalued.   When anything is devalued, the typical response is to look for more appealing stuff next.  Can you see a negative cycle starting?  This insight leads to a difficult question for me.  How do we keep our kids from becoming greedy?  I realize this is a First World problem, and, in the scheme of world issues, this isn’t at the top of the list, but it should MAKE the list.  After all, greedy kids grow up to be greedy adults.

Billy and I wrestle with this topic and have landed on this idea:

The antidote for greed is creating awareness of REAL needs in the world and using the outlets we have to to share with others.

Through the years, we've tried to collect easy ways to do this as a family.  The goal is to be generous but ALSO to have it register with the kids....and include them in the process.  Here are a few of the practices that have worked for us and might work for you:

  • take clothes you've outgrown and pass them along to other families you know
  • donate books to the preschool or library
  • donate toys to the Salvation Army
  • partner with church programs to give time and money to city and global organizations
  • set aside part of your allowance for the sole purpose of giving it away
  • give lots of support and supplies to local schools and teachers
  • bake an extra meal or loaf of bread to give to a neighbor...for no apparent reason
  • bring cookies to the firemen at the station up the street
  • participate in every food or supply drive at school...and try to "go big"
  • serve others with your time or talents.  (For example, last spring break we LOVED taking a week to serve here)

As important as these "giving practices" are, it is equally important to PROCESS the experience with the kids along the way.  This means talking about WHY we are sharing, HOW the needs of the world happen, and WHAT we can do to help.  The farther you dig in, as a family, the more the questions (and opportunities to talk) arise.

These are all terrific tools we've used before, but none of them addressed our sweet girl's Birthday Dilemma!  This came into high focus when it came time for planning our daughter’s party this year.  We asked her what she wanted for her birthday.  She said, “I don’t know. I can't think of anything.”  She still wanted a party and to feel celebrated, but she didn’t really want “stuff.”  She had seen us watch videos about other kids who “gave up” their birthday  gifts in order to fund a clean water project through one of our favorite helping organizations and decided that’s what she wanted to do too.

We did our best to "seize the day" and help her build her idea into a full-blown initiative. (That was our important part in this!) We helped our little girl establish her own donation page with Charity:water.   Since she was turning 9, her goal was to raise $900.   The invitations were delivered to her friends with instructions on how to donate online in lieu of presents.  Billy and I posted a couple of status updates on Facebook.  The first day $159 dollars came in.  The second day was an additional $120.  In a few week's time, she had reached her goal.  She was ecstatic, and we learned at least four things significant lesson:

  • The anticipation around making daily progress toward a goal is very, very fun.  One of her favorite parts of every day was logging on to see the progress on her donation page.
  • We have generous friends...and we love them so much!
  • Participating in a giving initiative is A LOT easier that you think, and the payoff is HUGE for a family.

And the biggest thing we learned was that generosity beats back greediness every time.

Want to try this for your family?  Click on the links above.  In the meantime, check out the video about the important work that Charity:water is doing...

Water Changes Everything. from charity: water on Vimeo.