The family is an ideal setting to teach and learn charity, because the greatest joys and the greatest sorrows we experience are in family relationships. The joys come from our deeply felt love for one another as we put the welfare of others above our own. The sorrows come primarily from selfishness, which is the absence of love.
The family provides the earliest testing ground where we receive years of experiences in a safe, loving environment, away from the eyes of the world. Family life provides countless opportunities to both love and mistreat those we live with. All family members must seek forgiveness and be forgiving in order for their relationships to survive. As we work to eliminate contention in the family, love and charity will flourish.
Charity is an inside job—inside the heart. Charity is a genuine feeling of pure love in our heart for all mankind, always noticing others who are less fortunate than ourselves. It prompts actions of caring about the welfare of others, being generous, and giving of both time and means to do all in our power to give in any way we can to help others.
Charity is far more than a service project or the outward manifestation of donating time, money and food. Service is the activity which helps teach and develop charity, until it becomes a habit and part of our very being and is manifested by our actions. Charity is a deep feeling of loving and caring so much for others that we are moved to want to help those in need.
Charity gradually changes and fills our heart as we serve others for the love of God and all of his children. When families look for opportunities to serve, they will instill a Christ-like, charitable nature in their hearts which will last a lifetime.
As a family, ponder your many blessings, and recall the times when either individuals or your entire family has been blessed by the kindness of others. When we recognize our blessings, we feel better about life, even in the midst of our own adversity. We see life as basically good despite its challenges and heartaches. This gratitude will also inspire acts of kindness and compassion, as we reach out to help others.
Because I Have Been Given Much
Grace Noll Crowell, 1877-1969
Because I have been given much, I too must give;
Because of thy great bounty, Lord, each day I live
I shall divide my gifts from thee with every brother that I see
Who has the need of help from me.
Because I have been sheltered, fed by thy good care,
I cannot see another’s lack and I not share
My glowing fire, my loaf of bread, my roof’s safe shelter overhead,
That he too may be comforted.
Because I have been blessed by thy great love, dear Lord,
I’ll share thy love again, according to thy word.
I shall give love to those in need; I’ll show that love by word and deed:
Thus shall my thanks be thanks indeed.
None of us should become so busy that there is no room left for service to others. Sometimes it is simply quiet, personal service which is needed.
“When thou makest a dinner or a supper, call not thy friends, nor thy brethren, neither thy kinsmen, nor thy
rich neighbours; lest they also bid thee again, and a recompence be made thee. But when thou makest a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind; and thou shalt be blessed; for they cannot recompense thee: for thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just.” (Luke 14:12-14)
Character is shaped in large part by what a person does to help and assist others. Nearly every sermon or talk at a funeral is centered around the service the deceased gave to others—and how he was kind, caring, loving, generous, never spoke unkindly of others—all charitable attributes. Funerals remind those who are still living, of the many good things the deceased did for others, leaving us with a desire to also live a more Christ-like life.
Teaching Children to Develop Charity
One of the greatest lessons children can learn is to care about others. Service teaches children to think outside of their own little world, and realize they aren’t the only ones who need or want things. Caring about others is a childhood lesson which will inspire children to help others throughout their lives, finding joy even when their own needs are unmet. They will have learned that true happiness comes from caring about and helping others.
Children can learn to develop genuine empathy for others, and help those who are unable to care for themselves. They can be taught that love is not just something you say, but something you feel and do.
Children will learn the value of service rapidly, because the blessings and joy of charitable service are usually immediate. They learn how to serve simply by serving others. Although children are naturally charitable when they are very young, parents can look for opportunities to teach and involve their children in serving others. Parents can introduce children to service by taking them along on their own charitable pursuits. Teens also enjoy serving with their peers, because service is socially acceptable.
Teach children that we are surrounded by those in need of our attention, encouragement, support, comfort, and kindness. In addition to family, service can be extended to people with whom we work, those whom we see near our home, at school, at church, in the community, nation, and throughout the entire world, including our enemies, even though we do not condone what the latter does. Service gives children the opportunity to learn about, and learn to be sympathetic toward, the kinds of people they may otherwise have never interacted with, such as people of a different age, race, income level, or those with disabilities. They will learn compassion, kindness and empathy for others who are not that different than they are.
Teach children to find someone who is having a hard time or is sick, or lonely, and do something for that person. Teach them to prayerfully ask God to reveal to them the needs of others.
Allow children to not only help bake the cookies, but deliver them also. There comes a much greater outpouring of true charity when the giver of the service actually faces the receiver. Parents and leaders can help children receive the gift of charity in their hearts, by helping them have both experiences—providing and delivering service, when possible.
Those who serve others will learn very quickly that love blesses both those who give it and those who receive it. Some ideas for getting children involved in charity are…
- Remember—Children are always watching your example. Make sure that it is clear to them that you are a charitable giver; and they will emulate you.
- Start children when young—it’s never too early to involve them in charity. Take them along on your own charitable activities.
- Involve the entire family. Children emulate the behavior of older siblings, parents and adults; and they will desire to serve as they see others enjoy serving.
- Allow children to participate in making some decisions about which charities they would like to help. If children do something that matters to them, they will find more meaning in it and will be more likely to stick with it.
- Keep a donation jar in your home. Encourage family members to donate money as they watch the jar slowly fill up.
- Approach your children’s school or class about getting involved in a charitable project, allowing their friends to serve together.
- Remember to reflect with your children after giving service to others. Talk about who benefited, how you made a difference, why it mattered, and why part of life is giving back. Talk about being a giver and a receiver, reminding them that we all need help sometimes.
Children may soon forget the many things they learned in a classroom, or received from others, including gifts; but, they will not likely forget their feelings surrounding the impressionable experiences of serving and giving to others. They will long remember the joy they brought into the lives of those they have served; and they will very likely teach their own children the joy and satisfaction of serving others.
Parents who foster charity and service within their family prepare their children to become better adults, citizens, spouses, and parents. Families who serve others will be less selfish, and internalize the principle of sacrificing to make others happy. As children mature, their motivation for providing service will change to a life-long, inner desire to help others.
“Only a life lived for others is worth living.”
“We can do no great things—
only small things, with great love.”