Whenever I travel with my sons (now aged 4 and 5), I have the unique pleasure of watching them assist the bell hop with the luggage cart. The spirit of service is strong with them as it is with most children of their age and I have yet to see a bell hop refuse their help or fail to issue a kind word of thanks for the unbidden assistance.
Perhaps the only thing more wonderful than watching one person help another without expectation of return is to see the recipient receive it graciously. The spirit of appreciation is powerful and inspiring!
Learning to give and receive in a balanced matter is fundamental to a generative and meaningful life. Children must be taught the principles of giving and receiving slowly, but surely, though I would caution the eager parent not to start the training too early.
Children up to the age of three or four are naturally self-centered. If properly encompassed and nourished with sufficient love and truth (more through parental representation than anything), they will naturally mature out of their self-centered state as their world expands.
Forcing a child to do anything before he has the wherewithal to meet what is being asked of him can be detrimental. Children can and rightly should be pushed along at key points in their development but as with everything in life, timing is important.
One of my greatest delights is to watch my own sons and many other children I’ve been privileged to work with over the years reveal an increasing scope of the spirit of service to the world over which they have dominion. That’s the whole point of growing up, isn’t it!?!
As you celebrate this holiday season no matter what your faith may be, remember that wise and generous giving and gracious and appreciative receiving are the fundamental building blocks of a life worth living.