I grew up in a giving environment. That is something I can really be thankful for the house I grew up in because whenever we didn’t use something my mom would encourage me to give it away, so we never ended up with things we didn’t need lying around the house.
Theres just this one thing about my Lego though… I had a large cookie tin full of Lego which is not even a lot today but 30 years ago for me it was worth more than all my toys combined. They were just old inherited pieces really, but they were my own prize possessions. Well one day at a time when I was entering my teens and weren’t playing with it anymore, my Mom came to me with the tin and asked me if she could give it to the little boy across the street.
The boy loved Lego and didn’t have a lot so it made sense really, but it was just that I really didn’t want to and also said so but she insisted that I don’t use them anymore and that he would be much better off with it than it standing around forever under my bed. I insisted that I wanted to give them to my children one day but my mom (wisely so) said that I would buy my kids new Lego one day. Well she was right… My kids have loads today and it wouldn’t even have made a difference in the pile they have, in fact it would have looked ugly between the shiny new pieces.
With long hesitation and embarrassment about my attachment to my old Legos at age 12 years old, I gave in and allowed her to take it away. I remember longingly looking at the tin as it went out the door.
Gone. My favourite possession was gone!
Forward 21 years later and I have two 4 year olds that manages to accumulate the weirdest shapes and sizes of toys that won’t just fit neatly into any size boxes so they end up being stashed in corners or in between other boxes of toys, frustrating the life out of me. Naturally I often try to encourage them to take one box and fill it with their unwanted toys to give away but for some or other reason they just don’t take to this idea. For some or other reason they want to keep the toys they hardly ever play with.
Whenever I suggest this idea, they have that longing look on their faces that I remember from myself when I gave away my Lego and I end up leaving it there…
It’s not that they are totally against giving though. In fact a big mistake I was making all along was that there were toys they were willing to give away, except that they were their new expensive toys that also happened to be their favourites and for some or other reason, they wanted to give away those to their not-so-unfortunate friends and I didn’t allow them at first.
I thought they would feel about those toys like if felt about my Lego, but what I only realised much later, was that the best way to cultivate a giving spirit, was to allow them to give away what they actually wanted to give away, even if it was their favourites rather than the cheap nonsense that I wanted them to give away.
That’s not how giving works and I almost blew it!
So one day when my son asked for the umpteenth time if he could give his favourite Transformer which happened to be Bumblebee, to a friend, it struck me… a light bulb went on! Giving is about sharing your joy with others. It’s easy to give away unwanted things and it’s no big deal… its a no brainer really. Giving away something you care for on the other hand shows that you care for the one receiving your gift and you want them to enjoy what you gave them.
So I let him give away his Bumblebee and guess what? He didn’t regret it like I thought he did. He knew his Bumblebee was gone forever and he was happy that his friend got to have it. Today, a few months later he said to me that he was going to save up for a new one. He clearly still wants Bumblebee and that makes it even more amazing to me.
That day I allowed my 4 year old to experience what giving is really about and shortly his sister followed by giving away one of her favourite dresses to a friend that loved it. My son’s giving did not only bless him, it blessed us witnessing and it spread through us like a fire… it made us want to give.
One day I’m sure my kids will get to a point where they will fill a box with unwanted things but until then, I will allow them to feel and understand the spirit of giving rather to force something on them which they are clearly not ready for yet.