Growing Generosity and Compassion in your Children – Part 1

When you think of generosity and compassion, how do you teach that?  There’s really no book you could read to drive home those feelings and grow those qualities within your child. 

I’m going to share with you a couple of nonprofit organizations I believe in, and how they help us grow our generosity and compassion as a family. 

Way back in the day, when I had a “real job”, I was an auditor for the governmental and nonprofit sector.  Getting to know tons of nonprofit organizations through my audits opened my eyes to the good works they do.

Now, with homeschooling we are able to incorporate a vast number of things in our lives that you wouldn’t think of as schooling.  And that’s the whole point.  To think out of the box.  This is schooling, nurturing and growing the type of adults you want for the world.

The first organization I’m sharing, is the Fresh Air Fund.  It’s an organization out of New York City that’s been around since 1877!  They arrange for New York City children from low-income communities to go to camp, or stay with a host family along the East Coast and Southern Canada for a week or two every summer. 

This coming summer will be our third summer hosting a child.  You are given an age range and gender to pick from.  A volunteer comes to interview you and do an in-house assessment to make the best match possible.  For example, we picked a boy for around our sons age.  Also, we have 3 dogs that live inside, so he would have to not be terrified of dogs.

The Fresh Air Fund provides insurance for the children in case they are hurt during their stay, and transportation to and from a stop near you.  After your first year, you can choose to have the same child come back, or have a different one come the following year.

There are a few ways to support this organization, one of which is hosting a child, another is to give financial support.

My interest in them was with hosting a child.  People live so differently all over our country, and I wanted my kids to have a personal relationship that would open their eyes to that a little (among many other things).  And, in the process I hoped to build a lifelong friendship and relationship they could mentally point to when they thought of generosity, kindness, and compassion.

In many ways, when we donate money or even tangible items to people in need, there is no human connection.  The transaction is faceless.  This, is personal.  A real-life connection.

We all get something out of it.  My kids get a relationship.  He gets to spend some time somewhere he can see all the stars.  I get the satisfaction of seeing the growth within all of them.

Generosity

Our relationship with him has grown over the last two summers.  One of the many ways he has grown, is in his comfort level of being away from home and being with us in our world.

The first summer he came, he was shy and reluctant, and was homesick every night at bedtime.  He wasn’t sure about our activities (going to the beach, riding horses, etc.), or about our dogs.  Putting his shoes on every time they went outside was absolutely necessary to him, and going too far into the woods was very uncomfortable.  By the end of the week though, he had a favorite dog ;).  And, he joined in with my son with his silly ritual of getting out of the truck at the end of our driveway and running to the house.

The second summer he came, he felt more comfortable.  He ran right up to the dogs, and remembered all of their names.  Conversations among the kids came easy, and they slipped right back into the banter they had grown the previous summer.  He asked when we were going to the beach (and discovered periwinkles and loved playing them!).  Shoes were still on for the most part all the time, but he didn’t put his shoes on to go from the deck to the trampoline.  Baby steps, lol.  And, he didn’t get quite as homesick. 🙂  

All in all, I think we are all better for the relationships that we’ve made.  Especially the ones you have to work at.  Relationships that might be a little uncomfortable in the beginning, may turn out to be the best ones in the end.

It does help that my son knows no strangers, he has an ability to make friends wherever he goes.  It’s incredible, really.

Here are some things that I have noticed in my children:

After sharing everything you have for a whole week, it’s no big deal to share.

They talk about him throughout the year fondly, and can’t wait for him to come back.

They make an extra effort to include him in what they are doing, and to be fair.

I’m sure there are many more things under the surface growing away.

My hopes are:

  • He comes back again this year and relationships continue to grow. 
  • They all look back on their childhood summers and remember that people aren’t all that different, no matter where they come from. 
  • They grow their kindness and compassion for others, and grow up with a desire to help others in any way they can.

I’ll share the second organization with you next Monday, so come on back, ya hear?

What are some of your favorite charities?  How do you teach multiplying compassion and generosity?

Talk to me, I'd love to hear from you!