17 December 2007

Teach your children

When I was a child, there were a few times that other people made Christmas possible for my brother, sisters and I. I have never been able to give back enough to repay that generosity.

In the past, the spouse, our children and I have provided Christmas gifts and meals to families in need through the Salvation Army and other organizations. We have also provided gifts for children in foster care, and in each of those instances, while the families' or children's identities were kept private, we knew their circumstances, ages, and wishes. The circumstances were usually dire--in one instance the father and primary breadwinner had died of a sudden illness--and the wishes were usually modest. But it was important to me that those people know there was someone out there who cared about them. And it was even more important to show my children that we take care of those who aren't as fortunate as we are.

Because the kindness of others taught me that.

Because I know from experience that a little kindness can go a very long way.

This afternoon, the spouse forwarded me an email about the employee of a subcontractor who lost his arm in a work-related accident recently. He and his wife are expecting their first child this month, and the company is trying to raise funds for his care and rehabilitation. On the way home from school, I told the kids the story. I told them that I'd planned to buy them each one more gift, or we could donate the money I'd planned to spend to this young man and his family.

No hesitation on their part. We don't need anything else, they both agreed. Give it to him.

I thanked them and told them I was proud of them for thinking of someone else.

"You shouldn't be proud of us," the son said. "This is what you taught us."

But I'm proud because they took the lesson to heart.

Go listen to some good music: "Teach Your Children" from the album Deja Vu by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young.

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