Sunday, December 24, 2017

Give and Take

                                                              From you I receive
                                                             To you I give
                                                             Together we share
                                                             And from this, we live.

I learned this simple canon from one of my Orff teachers, Mary Shamrock. How we need it! And today I’m wondering how we’re teaching the kids to live it.

I was at a party where the hosts have a little ritual of people born in each month lighting a candle and telling what they like about that month. Kind of like the Month Makers play I just did with 4th grade, expressing appreciation for the special qualities of each season. There were three kids between 4 and 6 years old at the party and each one said the same thing:

“I like this month because it’s my birthday and I get presents!!”

And I made the snide comment, “What are we raising here? A bunch of narcissistic capitalists?!! Ha ha!”

Well, I think I know children well enough to understand that this is 100% developmentally appropriate. The child perceives him or herself as the center of the universe and worthy of all the gifts the world and its inhabitants are ready to bestow upon him or her. And the world owes each child that feeling, giving as much as it can knowing that later it will take so much away.

And yet still, a culture can over-accent that sense of worthiness and cross the line into unearned entitlement, can confuse gift-giving with merely material things, can create an addiction to consumption that will never be satiated, can measure love by dollars, can neglect training children to know the blessings of giving.

So while immersed hook-line-and-sinker in the material side of gifting my grandchildren, I spontaneously bought a new deck of playing cards with the idea that my wife would suggest that Zadie help pay for them and give them to me. And surprisingly, Zadie loved the idea! She wrapped them up and then last night (two days before Christmas), showed me the package and insisted I guess what it was. I told her I wanted it to be a surprise, but her 6-year old self had no patience, so I kept guessing wrong while she gave me hints with mimed actions and verbal clues. When I finally relented, she yelped in delight. So I count this as Lesson No. 1 in the pleasure of giving.

Friends, at this time of the season, consider how to pass the message to your children of any age. And then have them teach the greedy people in Congress. 

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