The Philanthropy of a Smile: Teaching Kids to Be Generous

Sometimes a smile is all it takes.

As a parent, you want to give your kids everything in the world, and at the same time, teach them to be caring, generous beings. So how do you switch their mindset from “Gimme!” to “Let’s Give”? Here’s an inspiring post I came across today from Talk About Giving, an initiative that helps families instill the spirit of giving in their children. It got me thinking about the many ways we can be generous, each day, regardless of whether we have kids or not. It starts with a smile. Read on.

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“She’s generous with her smiles,” a friend of mine commented recently, describing a new acquaintance. Her small observation stuck with me. That night, I turned the question on myself, wondering: am I a person who is generous with my smiles?

Cultivating a spirit of philanthropy in our children requires more than simply teaching them how to give money or service. True philanthropy is larger than that — it’s equally about teaching our children how to give of themselves. Think about the small interactions that fill your day: the barista at Starbucks, the intern at work, the parents waiting with you at the ballet studio. Consider those exchanges, however trivial, as little philanthropic opportunities to model kindness, patience, and authenticity for your children.

Recently, I’ve resolved to share more — whether it’s a genuine compliment for a stranger in line with me, deliberate, friendly eye contact with the person who’s taking my order, or just patience in the crowded post office. These become the “teachable moments” that you and your kids probably won’t talk about — but they are setting a lasting example on how to view and interact with the world.

Have you ever received a dazzling, unexpected smile from a stranger? It is truly a gift. As you move through your ordinary and busy life, remember: charitable donations are only part of the legacy you are passing on.

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And now, my question for you: In what small way were you generous today? What happened, as a result? I’d love to hear your ideas. Please leave a comment below.

About Elaine

Elaine Gast Fawcett helps grantmakers, nonprofits and businesses tell their story, market their mission and attract more support.
This entry was posted in Charitable Giving, Children, Family Philanthropy, Random Acts of Kindness and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to The Philanthropy of a Smile: Teaching Kids to Be Generous

  1. Jan Myers says:

    Yesterday I needed to find a copy of the signature of our youngest child, Rachel, who was suddenly killed on June 26, 2010, at the age of 26. As I looked through her belongings, I found a page from a workshop activity she had completed a month before her death. On the form she wrote: “My mission is to encourage love and self-worth in everyone I meet. My vision is to uplift people around me, be kind, understanding, encouraging, and bring compliments. My main goal for my Mission and Vision right now is to make someone smile every day.” Her life exemplified your thoughts about sharing a smile . . . and then some. Oh, how we miss Rachel’s smiles!

  2. I had to laugh- I just said to my husband that I really felt that my extreme kindness to his (almost unbearable) boss today, just blew him out of the water. Sometimes it is the simple things like being able to drop everthing at home to help them out at work. Having a positive attitude about it can really change people. I would like to think that I brought a little bit of sunshine today to an otherwise unhappy and unfriendly workplace. Taking my child along shows him that you can treat others with kindness even when you may not be treated well in return. Thanks for another great post, Elaine!

  3. Geraldine says:

    this is so true. a smile is a special gift. And teaching children to be generous is a value that will last a lifetime. I’ve met some very giving children, wanting to share their toys etc, with other children they don’t even know. It’s all comes down to what’s going on at home I think. Excellent post.

  4. Pingback: The Philanthropy of a Smile: Teaching Kids to Be Generous | InternetRSSFeeds

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