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A couple of years ago, 23-year-old Alonzo Johnson made the news for helping an elderly gentleman down an escalator. When asked about what happened, he said his mother raised him to be nice and kind. 

“It’s really the way I was brought up and raised,” he said. Johnson went on to say that all the attention was very humbling.

The woman who witnessed the act posted it on social media. She ended her post by saying, “Whoever this young man is, YOUR FAMILY RAISED YOU RIGHT! THANK YOU! So, please look for the silver linings – as I was so fortunate to witness this evening.”

Most parents would hope their children would do the same thing if they found themselves in that situation, but who wants to leave it to chance?

There’s a good reason for teaching children how to be generous. Multiple studies found that generous people tend to be happier and are more likely to be healthier, friendlier, smarter, and stronger. 

Wondering exactly how to raise a generous child?

You can raise your child to be generous and cultivate generosity by putting these practices in place all year long.

  • Read “The Giving Tree” together.
  • Model generosity. Let your children see you being generous throughout the year. It doesn’t have to be huge. Get extra canned goods while grocery shopping and take the children with you to drop them off. Walk together as a family for a worthy cause or bake cookies and take them to your closest fire station or police precinct. 
  • Make it a part of your family’s DNA. Talk about what generosity looks like. Help them see the need and possibilities. Encourage them to help you make a family generosity plan.
  • Have a “Giving” jar. Once you have made your plan, let your children decorate a jar for collecting money throughout the year. Decide on a specific time when you will take the jar and be generous.
  • Expose your children to worlds beyond their own. Take your children with you to volunteer in places where they can meet the needs of others. All it requires is the gift of your time. You don’t have to have a lot of money to share your time.
  • Host Birthday Parties for a Cause. Many young people are asking for donations like dog food for the animal shelter, canned goods for a food bank, or blankets for a homeless shelter instead of birthday presents.
  • Make Blessing bags. As a family, you can put together blessing bags for the homeless and include things like socks, snacks, washcloth or wipes, lotion, shampoo, a package of tissues, a small bottle of hand sanitizer, conditioner, body wash, toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant and a bottle of water. You might want to add other things as you see fit.
  • Acknowledge when you see your children being generous. One way to encourage generosity is to call it out when you see it. Let your children know you noticed what they did. Ask them how it felt and what they learned from the experience.

Although the topic of how to raise a generous child seems to get a lot of play during the holidays, learning to be generous is a year-round effort. Generous children often become generous adults who give back to their community. Help your child discover that generosity is a gift you give to others as well as yourself.

Photo by cottonbro from Pexels

A CBS piece shared the story of Dale Schroeder, a humble man from Iowa. He worked as a carpenter at the same company for 67 years. He never married and had no children.

Since he had no living relatives, he approached his lawyer about a plan for his money after he passed away. His lawyer asked him how much he was talking about, and Schroeder said, “A little shy of $3 million.” The lawyer said he almost fell out of his chair when Schroeder told him the amount.

Schroeder never had the opportunity to attend college himself. However, he wanted to help kids from Iowa who otherwise would not have the opportunity to receive a college education. Schroeder passed away in 2005, but his legacy lives on.

In all, Schroeder provided college tuition for 33 people. They call themselves “Dale’s Kids.” They’re now teachers, therapists, and doctors, among other professions. None of them have any college debt—thanks to Schroeder. While they can’t thank Schroeder personally, they can show generosity by passing his generosity on to others.

Certainly, giving financially to a worthy cause is one way to be generous, but that’s not the only way. You can also show generosity by giving your time or lending a listening ear.

For example, a 90-year-old woman sent a note to her next-door neighbor. She said she was lonely, scared, and had no friends. Then, she asked the neighbor if she’d consider spending some time with her. Sometimes just your presence is an incredibly generous gift.

However you choose to be generous, here’s the really cool thing: not only does it benefit the person you are helping; it also benefits you.

“Helping is love made visible in acts of generosity small and large,” says best-selling author of Why Good Things Happen to Good People, speaker and Stony Brook professor, Stephen G. Post.

Post says that showing generosity is good for our self-esteem and well-being.

In a study of people over the age of 65, those who volunteered in the past scored higher in life satisfaction and had fewer symptoms of sickness. Those who did not volunteer proved to be sicker and unable to give to others. Post believes that feeling happy and connected to others are fundamental components to overall health, and that being generous with others forms bonds that are meaningful which then increases our happiness. Being a generous giver actually makes us want to be more giving in the future.

Post also finds that showing generosity is empowering. It inspires others to be compassionate and pay it forward.

“When the happiness and security of others is as meaningful to you as your own, you are a person of love and you will flourish,” Post says.

Being generous is contagious. 

When someone else is generous to you, it encourages you to show generosity to others, too. Giving of your time and resources can really feel good, and it has the potential to create a ripple effect of kindness in your home and community. Giving to others is powerful and makes for happier, healthier people.

Think about the many ways you have experienced blessings from others and the chance you have to bless people you know, as well as perfect strangers. The good news is, you don’t have to have saved $3 million dollars in order to be generous.

This article originally appeared in the Chattanooga Times Free Press on November 23, 2019.

Image from Unsplash.com

Does giving make you happy? You’ve probably seen stories in years past about the Secret Santa who travels the country, randomly handing out $100 bills just before Christmas. In 2018 he struck again. But this time he landed in Phoenix, AZ. He enlisted some help from a homeless man named Moses to give away – get this– a total of $3000.

Moses chose to give $100 to anybody who actually noticed him, and although many recipients were complete strangers, others were not. Moses also received a Secret Santa gift that he described as a new beginning for his own life.

You might think that Moses was happier about getting something for himself, but that’s not the case. Despite being homeless, he said it felt so good to give to others.

“Kindness is a bridge between all people,” said the Secret Santa. “If you are ever down and you want to lift yourself up, go do something kind for somebody.”

Believe it or not, there is truly something magical and actually chemical about the feeling you get when you give to others.

According to a U.S. News and World Report article, What Generosity Does to Your Brain and Life Expectancy, studies have consistently shown that giving makes people feel good as the body responds by producing “happiness” chemicals such as dopamine, endorphins and oxytocin. Selfless actions like volunteering or donating money can help to decrease the risk and symptoms of depression and stress. One study even found that giving time and assistance to others also reduced the mortality risk tied to stress, a known risk factor for many chronic diseases.

Another study published in the Journal of Health Psychology found that volunteerism reduced mortality rates more than exercising four times weekly and attending religious services regularly, which is also linked to improved mental health and a longer life. People who volunteered for two or more causes had a 63 percent lower mortality rate than those who didn’t volunteer during the study period.

Many believe it is better to give than to receive. Giving may make us happy. The research seems to confirm that giving in various forms contributes to our well-being. It has been said that giving is good for the soul. But it turns out that it is not just good in December. In fact, there’s plenty of evidence that giving is good all year long.

Click here to read the entire article. It originally published in the Chattanooga Times Free Press on December 23, 2018.

What are your goals for this season? If you want to provide a time and place where people can enjoy the holidays, relax, celebrate relationships, laugh, count their blessings, play, and help create warm memories, you may want to rethink how you’ve always done things and change things up a bit. As the old saying goes, simple is better… and it’s often a lot more fun for everyone involved.

These ideas can help you celebrate with more focus and less fuss. 

  • Make a list of everything you plan to do. Divide it between must-do, would like to do and not really necessary. 
  • See what you can mark off your list. For example, maybe you won’t send holiday cards this year. Instead of throwing a holiday party now, put it off until July. 
  • Let each family member choose a few of their favorite decorations to put out and leave the rest in the closet. 
  • Participate in alternative gift-giving. Tell everybody that all gifts have to be homemade this year. Challenge your children to be creative and let them do it themselves.
  • Donate to the favorite charity of a family member or friend in their honor instead of spending hours at the mall purchasing a gift they don’t really need or want. 
  • Ask family members to bring a favorite dish to the family gathering instead of doing it all yourself. 

The key to enjoying the holidays and feeling good about the way you spend your time and money during the holidays is to make a plan and stick to it. It is important to involve your family in the process, so share your goals with them and discuss ways you would like to simplify. Encourage them to find creative ways to celebrate. Then work your plan together.

Click here to read the entire article, which was originally published in the Chattanooga Times Free Press on November 25, 2018.

‘Twas four days before Christmas when all through the house, no one was stirring, not even your spouse. Stockings were hung by the chimney with care. What should you get her? Buyer beware!

Your wife all nestled snug in your bed while visions of diamonds danced in her head. The dog had his bone in front of the fire while you shopped online before you retired. So many choices. What do you see? “A blender, a vacuum or something for me!”

On Christmas morn, you’ll awake to a clatter and spring from your bed to see what’s the matter. When what to your wondering eyes will appear, your wife with a look that is very clear…

We’ve all heard horror stories of gift-giving gone bad. One newlywed, recalling the look on her mother’s face when she received an appliance for Christmas, told her husband if she could use it in the kitchen or for cleaning the house, it did not qualify as a Christmas present.

Believe it or not, she’s not alone. Most women say if it’s practical, it isn’t something you should give as a gift.

December 25 will be here before you know it, but it’s not too late for you to find a great Christmas gift for your wife.

Remember, men and women think differently.

When choosing a gift for your mate, consider how she will interpret the meaning behind your gift.

When in doubt, ask one of her friends or don’t run the risk. What men often don’t understand about gift buying is this: Women see the creativity, effort and gift itself as a direct reflection of how much her husband loves her. Men see a gift as a gift.

Whether you think it makes sense or not, there is a lot riding on gifts in general. So if you aren’t planning on taking up residence on the family room couch, you might want to take your gift buying seriously.

Be a good understudy to your wife.

Listen carefully to what she says. Pay attention to the things she enjoys and the way she spends her time. Does she like to cook, garden, sew, read, run, knit, go to the movies or ride bikes? You might even ask your wife for a list of things she would like as a Christmas gift. With a little investigative work, you can uncover some helpful hints to guide you in your gift-buying.

When some women were asked what they would like for Christmas from their husbands, here’s what they said:

  • Buy a gift certificate for a massage, manicure or pedicure.
  • Make plans to take the children out for the evening, allowing your wife to stay at home in peace and quiet.
  • Purchase a gift certificate to her favorite restaurant for a date night.
  • Plan a romantic getaway and take care of all the details. Give her hints about where she will be going and what she needs to bring for your getaway.

In case you are still struggling a bit, here are some more helpful hints to help you find a Christmas gift for your wife:

  • Purchase some of her favorite “go-to” items like special lotion, fragrance, candles, books, tea, and/or coffee.
  • Plan a surprise date night to see a play or concert. (Don’t forget to line up the babysitter. It’s not a real date if the person receiving the gift has to do the work to make it happen.)
  • Do you have a crafty skill like woodworking or making stained glass? She might enjoy something you made specifically with her in mind.
  • If finances are an issue, believe it or not, a handwritten letter expressing your love for her and how she makes your life rich is a priceless gift.
  • Throw practical out the window. This is the time you give something that you know your wife would never purchase for herself.
  • Take her on a window shopping date and pay attention to what catches her eye.

If all else fails and you’re still at a loss, ask her to go with you on a shopping spree to find the perfect gift.

If you already have her gift, you could start having a little fun now and leave clues in unusual places where you know she will find them. Creating anticipation can make the gift seem even more special.

So…with a gleam in your eye and a plan in your head, you know that you have nothing to dread. Your wife will proclaim with a smile shining bright, “Merry Christmas, honey. You got it just right!”

Even before Halloween is over, store aisles are packed with Christmas everything. Mail catalogs arrive and television commercials promote things we supposedly can’t and shouldn’t live without.

Ikea is one of the stores getting into the Christmas spirit with a commercial called The Other Letter.

Ikea had children write a Christmas wish letter to The Three Kings and a second letter to their parents. The letters to The Three Kings were filled with items the children really wanted for Christmas, but the letters to parents were quite different.

The children didn’t ask for things at all. Instead, they said things like:

  • I want you to spend more time with me… that we do more experiments at home.
  • I’d like it if you paid a little more attention to us.
  • I’d like it if you would have dinner with us more often.
  • Read us a story.
  • I’d like us to be together for a whole day.
  • I want to play. I want you to play cowboys with me.

What their kids said they really wanted for Christmas didn’t surprise the majority of parents. But most of them read the second letter through tears. One said she couldn’t read anymore.

Parents thoughtfully acknowledged their children’s wishes by saying:

  • To spend all the time we have with them is the most we can give to our children.
  • You want to give them the best you can and the best is yourself.
  • The feeling of trying to substitute that vacuum with a toy.

While the children’s letters were thought-provoking, the biggest surprise came when the children were asked, “If you could only send one of these letters, which one would you choose to send?” Each child chose the letter to their parents.

Before your blood pressure goes sky-high about how to give your children everything they “want” for Christmas, consider their true wishes. Perhaps the most valuable gift you could give your children is your time.

As you prepare for the holidays ahead, consider these ideas:

  • Make gift certificates for special outings with family members.
  • Buy a game to play together like Clue, UNO, Skip-Bo or Catch Phrase.
  • Learn a new family hobby together.
  • Make a video scrapbook by asking family members questions like, “What’s your favorite family memory, family vacation or family tradition, and why?” Tell your children how things were different when you were little. Open and watch it on Christmas Day.
  • Schedule a family progressive dinner in your own home where each family member is responsible for a course. Have the courses in different rooms, decorated by each preparer.
  • Create a family photo album. Include old photographs alongside more-recent pictures. People rarely make family photo albums anymore.
  • Write a letter to family members. Tell them why they are special and what they mean to you. Put the envelopes on the tree for Christmas morning.

Families who spend time together make memories and feel a sense of belonging you can’t buy in a store. Funny things happen when you laugh, start traditions and really get to know each other as family members.

People long and crave for intimacy in their own families. Store-bought gifts will never fill the void of precious time, so give it freely. It’s what kids really want for Christmas, and it’ll last for a lifetime—no batteries or assembly required.