Monday, November 22, 2010

86) Teach children lessons - Giving unselfishly

"If you give because it pays, it won't pay you." R. G. LeTourneau.

A poor family of six, parents and four children, were eagerly awaiting the arrival of a popular Circus Troupe in town. To give his family a treat the man saved coins over weeks to have enough for the tickets. After much waiting and great expectations they queued at the ticket counter. As it opened and the ticket prices were put up the man was aghast - after all that saving he was still short of cash for six tickets; even for the lowest class. He told his wife that he and she could wait outside the circus tent as the children watched the show. But the children would have none of it - they all went in or no one went in. Suddenly their spirits matched their faded clothes and footwear which was giving way in places. They decided to walk away from the queue. A man standing behind them in the queue heard their conversation. Without a word he dropped some money at the foot of the father, who was preparing to leave, and walked into the crowd - a nameless benefactor. The father saw the money, saw the man drop it at his feet, but had no chance to thank the giver. Excitedly they watched the show, but the man's heart went back again and again to the generous giver who would not wait to be thanked.

Many of us give, but want it to be a photo opportunity; a chance for a press report;
an occasion when others praise us for our generosity; a way of claiming a tax benefit. We expect some form of recompense. Jesus was decisive when he said: "But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing". Matt. 6:3. He continued that charity is rewarded by God, not man. Therefore, trumpets are not necessary. In the story we just read the man who dropped the money at the father's feet did not want even the rest of the family to know that someone else was paying for their tickets. He did not want the head of the family to lose face.

It is time we examined our motives when we give. It is time we taught our children to give without expecting thanks and praise. To know that the act of giving in itself is the reward. It also applies to non-money acts of kindness.

Monday, November 8, 2010

85) Teach children lessons - Accepting Responsibility

"People need responsibility. They resist assuming it, but they can't get along without it." John Steinbeck.

On November 4, between 1 and 2 AM, Singapore time, we watched President Obama's press conference, after the mid-term election results were announced. His Party had suffered a battering in the House of Representatives and just managed to hang on to a slender lead in the Senate. It was not a good time to face the press. Yet, with composure and dignity, he fielded questions (some tricky ones also), to give Americans and the World an answer they were looking for - the future would be better than the past.

What struck us during the one hour press meet, was his courage and humility to accept responsibility for the current state of affairs. He did not offer excuses; did not look for scapegoats; and did not pass the buck. Instead, the man that he is, he took the assaults on his chin, held himself responsible for what went wrong and promised to work harder to deliver better results. In the words of R. L. Stevenson, "he was like a clock in a thunderstorm" - ticking away despite the storm raging around him.

When things go wrong how do we react? Get into the blame-game? Look for excuses? Nail others? When we play such games, our children will learn to excel in them. If they score well in a test, proudly they take credit. But if they do badly it is the teacher to blame - she set a tough question paper; she did not teach well; she was not fair in evaluation. When will the blame-game stop? Only when we choose to end it - like President Obama. Growth in our children will begin only when they stop blaming others.