Be generous. 2 simple words. Extremely impactful. On the topic of generosity, I’d like to tell you a story. It’s a story of when I went shopping with my son. Not the most conventional story about giving to someone or doing something for somebody, but it’s what I think of when I now hear generosity. But, before I tell you this story, there are a lot of little things I need to share beforehand.
First off, my 3.5-year-old twins love Christmastime, especially my son. He doesn’t just love everything about it, he is obsessed with it. Let’s put it this way, I caught him singing “Feliz Navidad” back in March to the outside while standing on the windowsill. Every other week or so, he feels the need to listen to the Chipmunk’s Christmas album. There are tons of holiday toys he loves to play with, and at times, he pretends he’s Santa Claus. He loves snow, he loves jingle bells, and he loves Santa himself. Most importantly, he loves giving. There are a few things that my son needs more than anything else- aspects of responsibility, tasks to perform, ways to help, and to give to others. While he can sometimes drive you crazy (what child won’t at times?) he is one of the most caring, compassionate, and giving people I have ever met.
Published studies show that kids, on average, 10 and older can understand and appreciate sharing. And then, there are many adults that never understand the meaning of sharing or how to give. So, my son is basically obsessed with Christmas and I feel a very strong piece of that is his need / want / crave to share and to give.
Ever since the kids were born, I’ve always tried to give them everything and anything they could possibly want. Some people call this spoiling. I don’t see it as spoiling. I don’t often buy them sweets, and we don’t buy every toy under the sun (that’s the grandparents…). I spoil them with love. If they need time with me, if they want to play with me, if they want to go outside and ride their tricycles, garden, or now, play Pokemon GO, I do it. They behave mostly well, and when things get out of hand my wife and I use certain strategies depending on who they are (which usually work), but I’ll never deny my kids the love and attention they want and crave. It’s the greatest thing I can give them. As a dad that travels for work occasionally, I can honestly say that when I’m not here for them, I feel less. I need them in my life and I need to be able to give them as much love as I can. I also show them what it means to be good, kind, and generous to others. This means helping people in need, donating time and money, sharing what we have, and accommodating others. As I said, my son really took to this concept of generosity and holds on to it strong.
This now takes us about a week and a half ago. My wife was getting ready for a wedding and decided to take my daughter out with her. That leaves my son and I. I asked him if he wanted to go grocery shopping with me or did he want to wait for mom to come home and he said he wanted to go with me, just me and him. So, we got in the car and went. We get to ShopRite and I gave him his own list of items to look out for. We set off and pulling things off shelves, picking fruit, you know, shopping at the supermarket. We start down the aisle with salad dressing and there looking at the balsamic dressing is a rather large and stout man, wearing a biker t-shirt, suspenders, balding, and has a very large white beard. I notice him but didn’t “notice” him. However, my son did. I pull the cart up next to him and start looking for the Italian dressing. My son looks at me, looks at this man, looks at me, he smiles, looks at this man, and says, “Hi Santa!”
I looked at the man, looked at my son, and I thought, “oh man, how is he going to react?” He looks at me, looks at my son, smiles, holds his hands up to his lips, and goes, “shhh.” Well, my son’s face beamed. He smiled the widest smile I’ve ever seen. He asked “Santa” how he was. “Santa” responded that he was fine and asked my son if he was being a good boy. My son told him about the deer in our yard and “Santa” started talking about his reindeer getting out again, he talked about summer plans and, well, I can’t even remember how many things they talked about in that 5-minute span. At the end of their conversation, I shook his hand and thanked him for his time, and he said it was his pleasure.
Here you have a complete stranger. Someone I’ve never met before. Someone who I’m sure gets the “Santa” bit often… just looking for some balsamic dressing. What does he do when my son addressed him as “Santa?” He gives. He didn’t ignore us, shoot us down, or correct him (for all I know, he could have very well been Santa), but rather he was generous and gave us a few minutes of his time and interacted with my son. My son, who he never knew loves Christmas so much, loves everything about the season, and loves to be generous himself. My son, who had one of the greatest and unexpected experiences of his life; thanks to a complete stranger. What the best part for me? He loved doing it. He loved playing Santa.
When I think of being generous to others, especially with your kids, I now think of this story. As generous as anyone can be, you never know who, what, where, or when an extreme act of generosity will touch your soul. This man’s generosity with his time and interaction with my son was so great, and it really was nothing for him. It had a huge impact on my son, and it had an even bigger impact on me. I love being generous with my kids, and I hope that in some instances, my generosity has made others feel the way my son and I did that day.
We came home, unloaded the groceries, played for a bit, and my son just had this glow about him. It was like he knew the world’s greatest secret. That night he asked my wife and I if we could listen to the Chipmunk’s Christmas album during dinner. We did.
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