Thoughts about giving


        We help others because they need our help. We want to make them feel better and to help them thrive and survive. Thatís the most common approach to helping others -- and a view that I shared until recently.

        My perspective on giving got a complete turnaround a few weeks ago. I share it with you so that you can discuss it with your children.

        I was on vacation and went with a cousin to visit her mother in a nursing home. After seeing the amount of care that she had been giving my aunt, and hearing how she, as the only one of her siblings living in the same city, was taking on and doing such an admirable job, I felt it important to tell her how I appreciated what she was doing for her mother.

        Her response surprised me. She told me that she was doing it for herself. "I wouldnít be able to live with myself if I didnít do this."

        And thatís the new view that I got about helping people: some of us do it because we want the other person to benefit, whereas some of us do it because we like the way it feels for ourselves.

        Either way, the other person has the advantage of our good intentions, kind words, and helpful deeds. How much does it matter that the motivation behind our actions are different? In either event, the results are the same.

        What are the kind acts that we ask our children to perform? Share their toys? Help around the house? Offer peer tutoring to a classmate who needs help?

        No matter what the deed, we recognize that some children will help others because the other needs assistance; itís an action that makes the other feel better. Other children will be more motivated because of how it makes them feel to give of themselves.

        In either event, the end product is the same: we are doing what we can to help another. We get our kids to think about something other than their hair, their clothes, and their own requests. And that has only positive results.


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