Teaching Youth How to Give Back to the World

Stewardship is “the spirit that influences” giving, receiving, and generosity (as Wayne Clark defines it in his book, Beyond Fundraising). As adults, while many of us give our time, money, or energy to worthy causes, one must recall where that desire came from. Think back to your life as a child; did you help others as you were growing up? In what capacities were you able to help? Who taught you how important it is to give back to the community? Wayne Clark writes, “People are not born with the giving gene,” so we must teach individuals to be successful stewards. If a culture of giving is created at a young age, becoming a successful steward as an adult is a likely reality.

The Giving Book, which is geared towards children ages 6-11, is a 64-page activity book written to stimulate a child’s creativity and thoughts around the ideas of giving, donating, and saving. Some of the activities in this book include:

  1. creating a list of people who have been giving to you or have shown you acts of charity, making a list of what you are thankful for,
  2. compiling a list of special skills and talents you can share with others, and
  3. creating a giving bag in which you save up your money and then give to your charity of choice

This book can be useful for not only helping a young child to organize his/her thoughts around this subject but can help to get children thinking about how they can become an empathetic and helpful person. The author quotes a Chinese proverb at the end of the book that sums up the meaning that this book can serve for a growing mind: “If you want happiness for an hour, take a nap. If you want happiness for a day, go fishing. If you want happiness for a lifetime, help somebody.” When a child learns the importance of helping and giving to others, they will learn the meaning of true happiness. The Giving Book can help.

Unitarian Universalists (UUs) often have trouble discussing money and stewardship as adults, particularly in our faith communities. Sometimes, it is very hard for us to graciously receive (we’ve all brushed off a compliment).  And it’s even harder to live in a culture of abundance and giving rather than a culture of scarcity and hoarding. The latter comes from a fear of there not being “enough.” However, if we as UUs are able to cultivate and teach our youth about the joys of giving and receiving at a young age, perhaps we may nurture stewards of the future as well as become successful stewards in our faith. UU religious educators, parents, and ministers may find that The Giving Book can act as a useful tool by helping adults to grow comfortable talking about stewardship themselves while teaching children about the joys of giving.

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