So I came across this post on The NY Times a few days ago, and I was intrigued to see what advice the author had to say about giving to others. I agree with his idea of giving because you’ve been given to, but I feel like there is so much more to teach my children.
Yes, paying it forward is amazing. I can’t imagine what I would have done without the support that was given to Erik while he was sick, or the additional help that was given to the boys and myself later. I continually think about one day being in a financial position to help others like I was helped, and I am always motivated to donate a little here or there to keep that pay-it-forward attitude.
I think I’m rambling…
I guess my point is that my boys don’t really need a story about how someone has been helped financially, they’ve lived it. What I think is important to teach is giving without judgement.
It’s easy to give when you think someone is in need, or to a cause that’s important to you. Mason and Milo raise money every year for St. Jude’s Hospital in memory of their dad. What I’ve learned is that giving without a cause is a lot harder. Giving when you don’t think someone is quite worthy enough, or giving when you’re worried someone might misuse your gift.
Tyler is one of the greatest examples to me of giving without judgement. Once when we were first dating we rode a subway late at night and found ourselves sitting across from a homeless man clearly not in his right mind. We commented about a few things, including the drugs probably contributing to his current state, but as we got off the train I saw Tyler slip a twenty into his hand. I will never forget that.
Last week we were returning from an activity with the boys and Tyler gave money to a man who frequently sits outside our subway stop on a folding chair. Mason remarked, “Woah, you gave him $10?” And it started a conversation about how people say if you give a homeless person money they’ll just spend it on drugs, or maybe they’re faking being homeless. Tyler responded by saying, “I don’t care what he spends it on, if I have cash in my pocket I’ll always give something.”
And that is the bigger lesson I hope the boys are learning. It’s up to us to give help, but it’s not up to us to judge others. Because to be honest, you never really know how someone else is feeling–or what they’re relying on to cope with their situation.
PS: The picture above is from one of my favorite websites. Your purchase gets you work from a talented artist, and Help Ink donates to a charity of your choice in return. Not only is it a good cause, the messages are always so positive and happy. (I actually see this one every day when I walk into my work.)