Today, as I sit in my little office at church, I am listening to the podcasts of the sermons I missed in the last month, and I am rolling coins. Counting out the quarters, dimes, nickels, and pennies that children have brought to the children's collection, I am reminded of their small contributions and their grasping toward generosity. Sure, the change the kids brought each Sunday isn't exactly a huge sacrifice for them. But still, they have taken pride in giving.
Here is an article I wrote about this for my church newsletter:
Cultivating a Spirit of Generosity
Generosity may not be a quality you associate with children and youth. These are times of high personal consumerism, as children beg for toys, as teens spend their money on clothes and music, and as parents can feel like there are always extra hands reaching for their wallets. From a developmental standpoint, children and youth are so busy figuring out who they are that they have less thought and empathy for others.
But this doesn’t have to be the whole story. Children and youth also have a very fine sense of justice and fairness, and they want things to be fair. When they are shown injustice, they have a passionate desire for it to be “made fair”. If we give them the information, we may be surprised at how much they care.
Children and youth also want and need to discover their own capabilities. They can thrive when they are given a chance to take care of others, and prove to themselves and others how useful they can be. Children naturally feel an attraction to animals, partly because they can “take care of” animals. Older children can care for younger children, and if they are properly supported and supervised children and youth can take care of adults.
It’s also important for us to remember that children and youth may really have less to give (less money, less ability/strength, less time, less personal-choice), and that we need to honor what they do give as being as much as they could. When a child saves up pennies to give, that is as generous as an adult of means donating thousands of dollars. When a youth comes out for an afternoon of volunteer work, they may be juggling a ride to get there, or their school or family schedule.
Part of our work in Religious Education is to cultivate that Spirit of Generosity in our children and youth, and toward that end we have been collecting money in a Children’s Offering during the Children’s Chapel. The total raised came to $55.04, much of it in very small coins, carefully counted out by the children themselves. In the May Chapel, the children met to decide where their offering would go. Four organizations were presented as possibilities: UUSC, GRuB, Out of the Woods, and the World Wildlife Fund. Posters for each organization were posted around the room, and the children used stickers as their votes and placed them on the poster they wanted to support.
The WWF was a landside winner for the first service, and had a narrower win during second service. However, the children at the second service came up with their own idea that seemed fairer to the other organizations. They proposed dividing the money evenly between the four, and they worked out the math themselves. The boys who first suggested this idea were obviously proud as they described it again to me after the chapel.
May the Spirit of Generosity be with us all,