Charitable Children: The Importance of Teaching Kids to Give Back
Charity—When I told my kids that our homeless friend Dave the Police Chief died today, my six year old said; "I'm glad we showed him love." Dave was the former Police Chief of many cities, including Flower Mound, Texas, yet he ended up living on the concrete floor of a homeless shelter.
I met him when he was in a homeless parking lot and we became friends. He came home with me and spent the day at my home having meals, laughing, chatting about life, love, and loss. He was intelligent and worldly. He loved simple things like flowers and a great meal. He was just like you and me. He wasn't mentally unstable or a hoodlum. He just had a hard time getting back up.
Dave didn't want to live off of the government so he wouldn't apply for disability. The shelters encourage that process and thousands of homeless are on government disability. Dave couldn't do it. He knew he wasn't disabled. He had morals and values that no one else seemed to have, and his rigidity caused him problems with society.
The economy has been tough on a lot of people. Dave Brungardt was downsized, and he simply couldn't recover. A divorce impacted his life and wounded him in ways that couldn't be explained. But Dave did a great job explaining it in his writings each day. He would go to the library and write out a long email and send to the kids and me. I emailed him back and encouraged him to write because I felt it gave his days a sense of purpose. I often laughed out loud at his humorous view of the world and homeless life in general. If Dave didn't write, the alternative was grim.
Homeless people roam the streets in an endless search for jobs, get beat up or chastised. It happened often, and his self esteem would be shattered. It happened in between the times he did write, and each time I saw him he looked more defeated.
I didn't do enough. I just didn't. The last email Dave sent said; I feel now as if nobody cares. Its as if the tide goes out for the homeless, but never comes back in.
He had tried to get a room at the homeless shelter, misted of sleeping on the floor, but the process was a long one filled with meetings and paperwork. He emailed me that he felt defeated, and was giving up. Days after that email he died of a broken heart.
Dave had two sons. He talked about them often. The lessons knowing him left on my two young sons,are hard to define. He taught them that good men can fall on hard times. Knowing he was in the highest position of authority, and then the lowest, was a big lesson to learn. And there were others.
This is a season most of us receive all kinds of requests to give, from charity fundraisers, dinners, 5k events, to bringing gifts to orphans. Make the kids a part of the plan to give and involve them in the process. Create a legacy in their life that they'll never forget.
Three Steps to Teach Kids to Give Back
The following are three ways to help children learn the importance of giving back:
- Make a list of organizations.
- Ask kids who they have a heart to serve. Is it the elderly? The homeless? Or children?
- Sit down at dinner and ask everyone to write down one thing they learned. Debrief.
Your kids will learn that real people can end up in tragic circumstances, but that hope and love offer a way out. When they see the smile of a child who doesn't have a lot of material things, or the true joy in the face of an elderly man in a nursing home, it will change their lives forever and bond you as a family for a lifetime.
How do you teach your children the importance of giving back? How will you and your children give back during the upcoming holiday season?
Photo courtesy of Flickr.
Tammy Kling is a life coach, advocate for the homeless, and international author of 29 books including The Compass. Tammy is also the founderr of Write it Out, an organization that helps gang members, the homeless, and those living on the street write out their hopes & dreams via writers workshops, free journals and various other resources.
In addition to writing and coaching, Tammy is a mom of two boys, an avid trail and mountain runner, blogger, and adventure travel writer.
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