My daughter loves her menorah. She can’t stop pointing in the direction of the window, excited for her Abba to come home so we can light candles as a family. A discussion with my husband led us to decide to not buy her Chanukah presents this year; she’s not old enough to know that gifts are tied to the holiday. As she grows and her consciousness evolves, I’m sure this conversation will change. Just as many parents do, we’ll need to decide how our holiday giving takes shape. Yet although only eighteen months old, her feisty personality clearly foreshadows the fact that her voice will be asserted into the conversation.
This week, I was blessed with two great conversations (coffee not involved) within two hours of each other (coincidence or bashert – I’ll let you decide). The first was with an alum named A. who had just handed in a large check to our organization, larger than his means allow; his parents have a family foundation and if one of their children gives even a dollar, they are allowed in on the decision process of where the money should go. His mom and dad have definitive ideas on what’s important to them but A. has already impacted some of their choices based on his own worldview and what’s important in his own life. The second was with a student, L., who shared that her family isn’t particularly giving but that inspired by a Slingshot presentation she recently heard, she’s engaging her family in a giving circle in honor of Chanukah. She’ll be asking each family member what’s important to them and donate $20 on their behalf to a charity they mutually agree upon.
The stories had obvious ties of conscious giving, selflessness, & pushing oneself to stretch a bit further on behalf of others. But I was mostly struck by what it means to engage with your family around the values of giving. In both conversations, it was clear parents have the potential to inspire their children – and children equally have the power to inspire their parents. My daughter reminds me of the pure joy of lighting the Chanukah candles. And A. and L. remind me of how values aren’t necessarily passed from the old to the young, but instead do a beautiful bouncing amongst generations, with the potential to push each other to a greater good.
When was the last time you engaged your own family in questions of how, why, and where to give?