Charity: giving of our treasures

This month the word we are discussing is Charity.  This was always one of the main reasons I started this school.  The idea was that to build the very best students we could build they must learn and practice a wide variety of life skills.  One of them is the ability to give to others without expecting anything in return.

This is of course difficult at first for children as they have no income and I do not believe that just going in and getting canned food off of mom and dad’s pantry shelf and carrying it to school is exactly teaching them about service to others.  

So as we discuss charity it is giving of service or goods to those in need.  Those who need are ones who don’t have what they need to survive and be comfortable.   Our children will have a difficult time grasping that, but we can share with them the cost of food and how so many in our world today – in fact a large majority – live on less than $2 per day.  If you can show them how little that buys, they may begin to understand.  

The real question for me and others has been, what can our children do that is theirs and still be learning about giving.  One of the ways is by sharing some of our own treasures with others.  So when they outgrow their favorite shirt, or get new shoes, they can learn to share the old ones with others.  Or it may be a toy that they do not play with anymore.  Could they share it with a another child, perhaps one that is without toys.  

In addition to that lesson, if our child receives an allowance we could encourage them to put a part of their “treasure” towards giving to a charity or a cause that is important to them.  Doing these things at an early age helps to instill the concept of sharing our treasures with those who are in need.  

I have several students in our school who in lieu of birthday presents they accept donations of toys or books to be given to various community groups that help the homeless or are in some way disadvantaged.  When our child is able to do this, the act is not just about them anymore.  They are now acting as leaders in their community, setting the example for other children in giving to charity.

Self control: asking permission

Today we are going to talk about asking permission.  What does asking permission have to do with self control?  It starts at a very young age.  When a child wants a toy or crayons that someone else is using or has in their possession, the first thing that pops in their head is to grab it and take it for themselves.  Then as they get older they may use things that belong to their siblings or friends without asking.  As teens this may evolve into going out or to places without clearing it first with their parents.  As adults we may do things because we feel we have the right to do so (because we are adults).

What would happen if as a 5 year old we just grabbed the markers out of the hand of another child?  Is it safe or fair?  Will that solution work?  Of course not, we expect that we would learn to ask nicely without grabbing or yelling.  So we say “Excuse me, may I use that marker when you are done?”  As we get older We can begin to learn about respecting the rights of others and their property.  Even as pre-teens we learn that it is the respectful thing to ask for permission from our siblings and friends if we want to use their video game, or other possession.  Then we return it when we say we will.  This begins to build trust and respect for each other.

As we get older and have more freedom though we want to remember that just because we have the right to do something does not mean that it is the respectful thing to do.  Asking for permission for things that we want and need, instead of just taking them, helps to build trust and respect.  If as a teen you are spending the evening at a friends house and they decide to go visit another persons house, it builds trust and respect if we call and ask permission from our parents.  Why should we do this?  Using our empathy imagine how mom and dad would feel if they called for you and you were not where you said you would be.  They would first be very frightened and then upset and then they would begin to not trust you for your word.  A simple phone call would resolve all of that and create a better relationship with your parents.

Having said that about our kids it is time for us as parents to examine how we treat them.  If we are going out do we let others know where we are going and what time we expect to return.  If this is not a practice we have, we cannot expect our children to do any different.  In fact they are going to believe that being a grown up means you can do what you want, when you want, without telling anyone.  Taking this simple step of – self control – has far reaching impact on our relationships with our family and friends.

Empathy: our actions affect other people

Can you make someone else smile, feel good, sad, angry, frustrated?  Most of us know that we have that power just by what we say or do.  In fact it is by our choice of words or actions that others many time are affected and can have very strong emotional reactions.

One action like a smile or hug may make someone happy, another action like leaving someone out may make them sad.  Now it is not always possible to make others happy with our actions, nor should we, but we should be aware of and in fact we may want to predict the affect on others prior to taking a certain course of action or making certain statements.

There are some goals or actions that we can set for ourselves though that help both ourselves and others. What if we chose to help out a charity group with some of our time or to tutor a child who needed to improve in their reading.  If we are a young person, what if we helped our brother or sister with some of their work or read to a senior citizen.  All of these things demonstrate empathy and will no doubt make others happy.

Here is one more question on this subject though.  What is it that gets in the way of our seeing how our choices or behavior affects other people?  I think back to the time when I was a teenager and I do not think that I thought very much about how my actions would affect those closest to me.  Some of my actions brought pain and worry to my mother.  Was I that self – centered that how she felt just was not that important to me? 

When I look around and I see the hurt of some young people and their parents today. It goes both ways.  Some parents are so busy with their “lives” that their children are feeling very hurt and are affected by the lack of closeness.  One young man (17 years old) said to his pastor one day, “All I want is for my mom and dad to stop fighting about money and just spend some time at home with me.”  He said this just after his parents gave him a brand new BMW to ride around in. 

It is the hardest thing in the world to know how another person is feeling.  So the question is how can we adjust?  How can we do this first and foremost with our own family and then with others.  This is just a thought but I believe it takes deep listening and time.  As we start this year off, I for one plan on making empathy a bigger role in the decisions and choices I make.  That is one way to make a difference in the world that we live in.

Dependability: keeping our word

Our word of the month is dependability.  All of us know that if we are dependable then we keep our word, we follow through on our promises.  In our day to day life we make promises to others all of the time.  In fact many times the promises just slide off our tongue very easily and before we have thought it out completely. 

Many times that happens most often with our friends and family.  Why is that so?  I believe that we take for granted that they, because of our relationship with them, will ‘forgive’ us if we do not keep our promise just the way we said it or at least they will be more understanding. 

Is that really fair to them though?  What is the long term effect if we make this a practice?  I know as a parent that when our children said they were going to do something and they did not follow through it was disappointing.  Then when we asked them to give their word again we would ask them again and again.  (that can be annoying for both the child and the parent)  If it is a really big issue, like what time will you be home or if your home work is complete, it could lead to losing privileges. 

We have talked about this many times too that we may also lose the trust of the other person.  If you are a child reading this – there is nothing that is worse than losing the trust of your mom and dad.  Do everything you can to maintain that trust.

One more part of this puzzle too.  When you do not keep a promise there is the feelings that you have about yourself.  Do you know that feeling I am talking about?  That guilting feeling?  The one that everytime you see the person you promised something too you just cringe.  That has a long term affect that I will talk about later.  But for now we can all work on keeping our word and doing so as quickly as we can after giving it to another person.

Rewards for keeping commitments

Everyone of us has had a time when someone promised to do something for us and then did not keep that promise. How did it make you feel? Frustrated, angry, let down? We have also experienced, hopefully more often, the times when promises were kept and our feelings were the exact opposite. We were relieved, happy, and felt like we knew someone we could rely on.

If we are a young child and we promise mom and dad that we will clean our room and then we keep that commitment – without being asked to do it again and again – your parents are feeling very happy about you being so responsible and trustworthy. Believe me as a child this is a good thing for parents to feel this way!

At the same time when we keep a promise like that we can say to ourselves that we know we are dependable and that we can reach our goals, because we stick to our commitments. Guess what? The same is true for adults! The people around us begin to trust us and see us as leaders and reliable when we keep our commitments. It makes a big difference.

If we break our commitments though others may not feel that they can trust us, they may be upset with us and it will impact the lives of many other individuals. It also has a big impact on ourselves and how we feel about ourselves. When we keep promises to ourselves there is a pride and feeling of accomplishment. Here is a quick example. When it is time for me to do my work out I sometimes do not feel like doing it. Have you ever felt that way? But as soon as I get started it is OK – but when I am done I feel so good about accomplishing a task that I committed to my instructor and have made known to the entire community I would do.

You will feel the same when you keep a commitment to yourself and to others.

Read about Mr. Joe’s commitment to the Ultimate Black Belt Test that started in January 2009 and will be completed with the final test in February 2010. He recently committed to the “Live Like a Champion” journey that begins in January 2010. His journal is My Journey.

What are our commitments?

What kind of commitments have you made? Everyday and in every part of our life we make commitments to others. We ‘promise’ mom and dad to do our chores or to help do the dishes. We promise to clean our room, brush our teeth, take out the trash. These are all commitments.

When we are at school we commit to our parents that we will try our best and to our teachers that we will do what we are asked to do. We may have promised a group of our school mates to work on a project and complete a certain task.

There are times that we commit to being to a meeting or class at a set time. That is a commitment. Many of us have joined a club or an activity. Maybe we joined the orchestra a school. If so, we have made several commitments. We have committed to come to practice with our band mates, practice at home on our own time and to always do our best. We have promised not to quit if it gets hard or if something else comes up we would like to do.

We are going to discuss this month keeping our promises, our commitments, and the affect that it will have on us and on everyone around us.

Read about Mr. Joe’s commitment to the Ultimate Black Belt Test that started in January 2009 and will be completed with the final test in February 2010. He recently committed to the “Live Like a Champion” journey that begins in January 2010. His journal is My Journey.