Teaching the Art of Giving

I saw very little of my siblings the two weeks leading up to Christmas every year. You see, I'm the youngest of three - my brother is 8 years older, and my sister is ten years older - and they were busy. Busily creating, making, finishing (or sometimes beginning) homemade gifts for my parents or me or my grandparents. My memories, even rhythms, of Christmas include time away from events and shopping to imagine and to cherish loved ones by spending time making special gifts. 

It's just what you did. Or what we did. I grew up thinking that every sibling did this.

I also grew up thinking this is how you use your talents. You create out of love. You create for others.

My sister is a great artist and amazing needleworker. The handmade creations she can put together (in a very short amount of time) are remarkable. She has very few of these pieces in her own home. They have all been given as gifts.

My brother is, too, an artist - sculpting and creating with fabric as well as pencil and paper. As a young child, I would challenge him to create something awesome for me, say, a purple-spotted black giraffe (with nearly 100 individual spots that he sewed by hand), and he'd make time to do it. He's given away all of these time-intensive, labors of love.

As my own creativity grew and developed, I followed suit and gave away my art as well. 

It starts simple, right? Our children bring home that coloring sheet crayoned in our favorite shades. It moves to the work from camp or art class, like the pot or pencil holder that was made extra-specially for you.

And somewhere, judgement comes in from either the giver or receiver, and with time limitations and conflicting priorities, the handmade gets left behind.

My oldest daughter at age four, when she began to recognize the quality of her drawings, wanted to keep all of her artwork. She loved each paper so intensely, how could she give it away? She had spent so much time on it... She had thought about each pencil mark and erasure. And it had turned into something that she really loved...

As I told her then (in four-year old language), I'm not advocating for giving away everything that you create. I suppose it's more of a mindset. You see, these talents and artistic abilities and creative ideas are all a gift to us. To think that we are the sole creators or originators of these capabilities would be false or at least a distortion. Our talents have been given to us by a good and gracious God, and the fruits of those talents are meant to be used, dispersed, and spread.

The simple act of giving away today's coloring sheet or tomorrow's popsicle stick creation teaches a broader, stronger lesson on love and how to love. And how to live.

Keep encouraging your children to create and to create for others. Even if something is not made with their own hands, teaching children that thinking about someone else and spending their time giving for other's betterment is such an essential life skill and a budding lesson in love.

Oh, and thanks Brub and Sis for teaching me that this is the way it goes.

xoxo, MJ