My 11 yr. old daughter started her own “Mommy’s Helper” business this past summer. The concept was simple: She would come to your house and play with your kids so that you could get some work done around the house. She charged $1/hour per kid. And somehow over the course of a few months, she made about $60. For the first time, she had the money to buy “real” presents for us for Christmas, so she and her Daddy got on Amazon and spent all but $15 of her hard-earned cash.
I was proud of her for not wanting to hoard her money and for choosing to bless others with it instead. And she still had $15 to boot (by the way, I look for ways to use the term “to boot” in my writing so I am very excited right now about this opportunity).
Then on Tuesday, I told the kids I was taking them to Dollar Tree to do their Christmas shopping. I told Hannah I knew she’d already done hers but she had to come along. Her eyes lit up. “Oh, yes!” she declared, “Now I can get presents for my friends!” By the time she finished her list, she had 14 names written down, spending every last dime of money she had worked so hard to earn. I looked at her and said, “You know honey, your friends aren’t expecting gifts from you. Don’t you want to keep some of that money for yourself?” She got a strange look on her face and said, “Is it okay for me to give gifts to them?” “Yes,” I replied, “I just thought maybe you’d like to keep some of your job money for yourself instead of spending it all on others.” She shrugged and then said pointedly, “It’s what you would do.”
My heart leapt, sunk, and spun around all at once. “It’s what you would do.” I had no response other than to say, “I’m glad that’s how you see me; let’s go get some presents!”
Because honestly, I don’t know if I would have spent ALL my money on presents for others, but I do know that Luke and I have tried wholeheartedly to model generosity to others for our kids. And I’m not sure I would have made sure that every. single. friend. had a present from me but I am sure that it has been our goal to demonstrate hospitality and love towards others in our home. And frankly, I’m not convinced that I wouldn’t have taken the out I offered that no one was expecting the present, but I am convinced that as parents we have put a lot of emphasis on never taking the easy way out and doing your best for God and others.
For Hannah this translated into spending her hard-earned cash on gifts for others at Christmas. This act has brought her much joy as she thought of each friend and family member and how she wanted to bless them. While we have never modeled this exact behavior to our daughter, she translated our other intentional parenting moments into this action and assumed that it was precisely what we would do in the same situation.
Parents, ministry leaders, involved adults – don’t think that you have to have the exact right words for the exact right moment at the exact right time. Putting that kind of pressure on yourself will almost definitely guarantee a fail. We are imperfect people. Instead, seek to live lives that exemplify Christ in your life.
Be intentional about sharing why you are making a meal for a new family, going for a walk with a friend who is hurting, spending time in prayer with your spouse, pausing in Sunday school class to hug a child, inviting a new family for dinner, cleaning the house for your family, etc. Tell them in words and deed that these things are being done because you love Jesus.
You will never be able to address every specific situation that your kids will find themselves in, but you can give them a framework to make decisions from, namely, “What Would Mom/Dad/Teacher/Friend Do?”
Hannah has exactly 32 cents to her name right now. Hannah is happier than I’ve seen her in a long time. Sure, she wants to keep earning money and she plans to keep working, but even now she’s already got big plans. After all, the new year is before her and MY birthday is February (to boot)!