“This is money.”
It began after a trip to Nana and Papa’s house. Ever since I was a boy I can remember my dad coming home from a long day of teaching and coaching and emptying his pockets of keys and loose change. The change would go in a jar or in a drawer or even in a small change purse. I guess things hadn’t really changed because after spending the weekend at my parents house my then 2 year old boy had added a new category to his understanding of the way the world worked. He had become aware of money. In fact he was now a little too aware.
Leave a quarter on the table. It was snatched up by his little chubby hands. Drop a penny on the floor. In a flash he had ferreted it away to his room. He would take all the change from my car, my jar, and my nightstand table. He would grab it, look at you, laugh, and then run away with it. My little boy had turned into Gollum and anything round and shiny became his “precious.” Try and take that quarter back and risk loosing a finger. He started asking me for money. He asked his mom. He told us about Nana and Papa’s money. Money was now something he was keenly aware of. And he was in love with it.
As a dad it unnerved me a little. Where did this obsession come from? Is this a sneak peek at his future? Would he live his life collecting and swimming in gold coins (Duck Tales! aWEEOO!)? I had visions of my perfect little boy becoming a crusty old miser.
However, something quite different has happened. Something like what happened last night.
As Sandy was tucking him in bed, my son asked her, “Mom, why do all little boys have their own bed?” Sandy told him that not everyone has their own bed. He got very concerned and wanted to know why. Sandy explained that sometimes their families don’t have enough money to afford a bed. Hewson jumped up and grabbed his money bucket where he keeps all my spare change he has stolen.
“I have money. They can take this and buy a bed.” He didn’t offer up some of it. He gave it all. So that some kid some where could have a bed to sleep in.
After, I stopped crying. I thanked God for giving me such an amazing kid. I also thank God for some how, some way helping us to teach him the value and the power of money to do good.
It hasn’t been very easy but there have been a few things we have done to intentionally help our little boy move from loving money to using using money in order to love people. 3 things come to mind:
1) Giving Gifts
We have an amazing group of people that help us function as a family. From friends to teachers to babysitters to family members we are surrounded by people that help us every week by caring for our kids. When it comes to giving them tangible expressions of our thankfulness for their love and sacrifice we have included our son in giving those gifts. He goes with us to purchase items for care packages. He stands with us at the register to help pay. He helps us care the gifts to their recipients. We make a big deal out of how much fun it can be to give. If you are with us on the nights we get to say thanks, you would see what we mean. Lots of laughter, singing, and fun. My son has the same spiritual gift as I do: a loud voice. To hear him say “Thank You” at the top of his lungs will melt your heart.
2) Talk About How Blessed We Are
We try and daily draw his attention to just how blessed we are. My wife does a great job at this. Just like our little conversation last night, Sandy takes opportunities daily to tell him that sometimes people don’t have the things that he does. It could be a bed or toys or even body parts. One night during prayers Hew thanked God for his hands. Sandy swallowed hard and took that opportunity to tell him that some boys and girls don’t have hands. I know that sounds gruesome but we want him to know that he has been blessed because we believe that that blessing comes with a responsibility. We are blessed to be blessings.
3) Use Holidays and Events to Teach Giving
Over the last few years Halloween and Easter have helped us teach Hewson the value and fun of giving. (Did I just write about Easter and Halloween in the same sentence?!?!) These are two holidays that are taylor made for teaching this lesson. At Halloween we have spent more time having Hewson give away candy at our house than we have taking him around the neighborhood. When that doorbell rings he can’t wait to hand out candy. This Easter, we had him stuff eggs for the egg hunt at our church. We reminded him that these eggs were for others. He got so excited about sharing. We took 2 holidays that already have positive giving elements and simply tried to highlight the giving over and above the getting.
Does my son still balk at sharing his toys with others? Yes. Does he sometimes flip out when he doesn’t get his way? Yes. Does he still snatch my change from my car? Oh Yes!
I recently watched an amazing documentary about a musician named Josh Garrels. In the opening few minutes, it shows Josh and his wife wrangling their two kids and Josh talks about how they do life as a family together in the midst of work and creating art. He echoes my feelings about all of this when he describes what it’s like growing and teaching little kids at this stage of their lives. He says, “This has been the biggest lesson for me and my life: Unconditionally loving and serving someone without, at this point, seeing any return beyond just having a relationship with them. Especially at the ages their at…when they are young, you’re in reaction mode.”
Teaching my son about giving and serving has been an exercise in patience and hope and frustration and victory and setback. Much like what God goes through in teaching us important lessons. The breakthroughs come not from 3 neat steps or an instructional video or even a how-to book.
The breakthroughs come from a relationship marked by unconditional love and service.
We catch small glimpses of breakthroughs when we experience things like what happened last night. It’s those glimmers of hope that give us encouragement to keep investing in helping our son understand that the real power of money is found in giving it away.