I think it is very fitting that the character word for December is generosity. One of the simplest definitions for generosity is the willingness to give or to share; an act of unselfish giving. The Christmas holiday is a time when we witness acts of generosity more than any other time of the year. We often look at the character trait of generosity as giving money or gifts, something associated with “things” but generosity can be expressed in a multitude of ways. Generosity is giving good things to others freely and abundantly. Generous acts are not just giving something away but giving away an abundance of a resource including money, time, attention, help, etc. that is for the well-being of another.
The Character Council is going to focus on the family component of character development during the upcoming year and I thought it would be a great time to share some thoughts on developing a generous family. Families can grow in their generosity by looking for good examples, using creativity and encouraging each family member to look for ways to help others. I recently read an article by Renee Stearns, Raising a Generous Child: “Children watch the adults around them and, like sponges, absorb the values they see modeled by their parents.” I think that as children witness parents consistently exhibiting generosity the children in turn will begin to model the same behavior. It is also essential that you discuss the impact of your generosity by the actions you have taken. When families begin to have conversations about the needs of others and they begin to look for ways they can give of themselves then everyone in the family can begin to grow in generosity. Being generous doesn’t have to be complicated. Once families begin to look for others in need it is easy to notice opportunities around them to be generous.
Sometimes it can be the children that teach the adults to be generous. I was at a meeting earlier this week and a friend shared a very personal and touching story that I would like to share. Amelia Meyer was a kind, healthy and active eight year old until it was discovered that she had a cancerous brain tumor. She had surgery only to have the tumor return and with the severity of her illness the Make a Wish Foundation met with her and explained that they would grant her greatest wish. For many of us if we found ourselves it that situation we would think about something that we had always wanted to do, someplace we had always wanted to go or even someone we had always wanted to meet but this eight year old girl had a very different wish. Her wish, when it could have been anything, was to take care of the world so others could enjoy it. The eight year old’s idea was inspired by walks she had taken with her grandmother after treatment. They would regularly pick up the trash that they would see during their walks and at the park. Amelia lived in Kansas City so the day her wish was granted hundreds of people from all over the city met in four parks and helped fulfill the young girls wish. I truly think this is a perfect example of generosity; to give and expect nothing and to put others needs before our own wants. This is also a perfect example of how an act of generosity can grow , my friend gave us a card about Amelia Meyer and $10.00 each and asked us to use the money in any way we wanted to help make the world a better place. My friend was already a very generous person but I believe this was a way that she could honor Amelia and her family and use this very real example to continue to spread the spirit of generosity that this special child exhibited. You can find out more about this story on Facebook: Amelia Meyer Kindness Project, if you are interested.
I would encourage everyone to make a list for all of the things in your life for which you are grateful. Once you start intentionally thinking about all of the blessings you have including family, friends, a support system, financial, you may be surprised just how good you already have it and you may find yourself looking for ways you can share your life blessings with others. Barbara Bush said “Giving frees us from the familiar territory of our own needs by opening our minds to the unexplained world occupied by the needs of others. “
Remember that an act of generosity can be as small as a genuine kind word to a lonely person, donating food or clothing to a community food/clothing bank, to making a large donation to a cause that is close to your heart. My Christmas wish for everyone is to be more grateful for all of the people and things in our own lives and in turn be open to the opportunities to become more generous with others.