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I don’t remember what my grandparents got me for Christmas two years ago. I’ll never forget what they taught and modeled for our family though.
What my wife (Alli) and I, along with every other family member received was an idea, a challenge, and resources. Grandpa and Grandma started a trust that was dedicated solely to helping those who were less fortunate. In introducing the trust, Grandpa talked about how he just wanted to live out the words in the Bible he had recently read.
“For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.”
Alli and I were given the go-ahead to keep our eyes and ears open to help people who crossed our path throughout the year. Grandpa pledged to back us for $500 throughout the year. All we had to do was spend the money when we saw the opportunity, tell Grandpa of how the story played out, and be reimbursed shortly after.
During the year, it was fun to be anticipating who would cross our path that needed help. It made giving generously to the needs around us very easy because the cash wasn’t a problem. Maybe, we were learning, it should always be this easy. There was a pregnant teen at the school I was teaching, a family affected by a child’s brain cancer, and a refugee family that not-so-coincidentally crossed our path that year.
The most powerful thing was to gather around as a family one year later and hear how other family members had seen needs and been able to meet them. We heard story after story of the hungry being fed, the thirsty being quenched, the stranger being invited in, the naked being given clothing, and the sick being cared for. Situations were changed because my grandparents chose to be generous and teach generosity at the same time. Family members were changed. It was an emphatic YES when Grandpa asked if we’d be interested in continuing this trust next year.
I’ve learned many things through this. The biggest thing I’ve learned is that leaving a financial legacy for my family doesn’t mean having a full bank account when I’m old. Rather, the financial legacy I want to leave is an example of generosity and teaching my family to keep our eyes, ears, heart, and checkbook open to meet the needs of those less fortunate, all year round.
A special trust fund was one way of how my Grandpa taught our family to be generous towards those in need.
How did you learn to be generous? What family lessons on helping people do you remember? How are you hoping to teach your kids and family about being generous?