|I Love You art by K, age 5|
When J received his annual bonus a few weeks ago, we decided to try something new. We've typically seen the receipt of a lump sum as a way to give to organizations that don't normally receive our tithes. J and I have enjoyed brainstorming together about who to give to and how we can bless them, so we decided this year to let the girls in on the action. They were each given a sum to donate to an organization of their choice.
Their immediate reactions were a bit surprising. They all knew exactly where they wanted the money to go. K wanted to give some to the homeless and some to an orphanage (they'd recently watched Annie). B wanted to give to Soles 4 Souls and a homeless shelter. A wanted to give to Rejoice, where she dances.
A had an opportunity to donate her money fairly quickly through a dance marathon event, but it has taken awhile to get around to giving to B and K's causes. This actually worked out well, since K said to me not long ago, "Mommy? Have you given my money away? Because I thought the people in Japan might need it." I told her that was a great idea and that we could talk about it some more.
B had also had a slight change of heart. Her school is holding a Jump Rope for Heart event and she had asked if she could give her money as part of that. While I initially agreed, as I thought more about it, I wondered whether her motivation was curing heart disease or earning prizes...
Today, I was taking care of some of my final dispensation of bonus gifts and decided to see if I could take care of B and K's giving online as well. I started by talking with B about her giving. I told her I'd been thinking about Jump Rope for Heart and that while it was still OK for her to give to that, I wanted her to think about whether she was being motivated by the cause or the prize, since the point was to give, not get. Of all my children, B has the strongest conscience. It didn't take her long to conclude she was, in fact, more motivated by the prizes. After some discussion, she ended up splitting her gift and giving equal amounts to Soles 4 Souls, CUREkids and our church. When J asked why she wanted to give money to our church, she said, "It's my church," like it was the most obvious thing in the world.
Then came the task of getting K to make a decision. She started by asking me whether the people in Japan or the homeless people needed the money more. How do you answer a question like that? It kind of broke my heart. I tried to explain that Japan's needs were more urgent than the needs of the homeless, but that their needs were still very real and present. She asked to see pictures of what happened in Japan after the soo-man-ee (as she calls the tsunami). So we looked at pictures. Lots of pictures. We talked about what we saw in the pictures and K asked me, "Are you getting sad?" She was right. It was hard to look at the widespread devastation in picture after picture and not get sad. But we still needed a decision. Where to give the money? As I was about to split her gift between an organization that supports the homeless and Japanese relief efforts, she decided it should all go to Japan. I clicked away before she could change her mind again and assured her that was a good choice.
I've been encouraged by my girls' reactions to this experiment because I want to try something new this Christmas and let them give gifts to others instead of receiving gifts from J and I. I thought by giving them a taste of what it can be like to give, they would be more agreeable to the idea of changing the way we celebrate Christmas. But even as I'm encouraged by K's concern for the people of Japan, A's love for the kids she dances alongside and B's desire to help others, I'm stunned that the same children who can care about others can turn around and be mean to each other.
My children fight far more than I'd like. They bicker over who's going to sit where, snap at each other if they have to repeat themselves and generally act as if their sisters are put on earth for their personal torture. So these same loving girls can be real pains, too. In times when the din is high and my spirits are low, I try to remember that siblings are meant to help us understand conflict resolution. All of these little squabbles and spats will hopefully turn them into the humble, selfless, giving creatures I sometimes glimpse. In the meantime, I'm going to try to remember moments like today, when K looked at me earnestly and said, "Who do you think needs the money more?"