Tag Archive for generosity

Join My New Year Epidemic

A new year has begun. I’m glad. I am tired of the hassle, the bureaucracy, the constant barrage of sensational seeking in the news. I want to shed the heaviness of stress and feel the lightness of joy. So, I’ve decided to start an epidemic in my family. That’s right. I want to become ground zero for sending cheerfulness viral this year, starting right here in my own home with my own family. Perhaps you will join this epidemic to spread cheer and joy in your family and, from there, into the world around us. Here are some ways I plan to spread cheer this year.

  1. Emoticon with big toothy smile

    Emoticon with big toothy smile

    Smile. I am going to find reasons to smile. When I don’t feel like smiling, I will intentionally smile. I will smile at my spouse when she walks into the room. I will smile at my children every chance I get. I will smile at the clerk who rings up my groceries and even the person who cuts me off in traffic. I will smile because I’m happy to be alive. Smiling brings joy to the one smiling and the one who sees the smile. (Read On Safari for the Elusive Smile for more benefits of smiling.)

  2. Laugh. Yes, I want to laugh. I will seek out jokes to make my whole family laugh. I will laugh at myself. I may even tell more dad jokes (learn about The Power of the Dad Joke) to create more “rolling eye laughter” among my family. A good hearty laugh is good for us. It will reduce stress and draw our families closer together. (More in Laughter is No Laughing Matter)
  3. Show kindness. Nothing increases cheer and joy more than sharing a kind deed or being the recipient of an unexpected, kind deed. So, this year I will make it a point to show kindness to others. I will hold doors open for my family and the stranger behind us. I will give away the last cookie and let my spouse control the remote—in a real blast of kindness I will even let my children control the remote. I will wash dishes and do other chores around the house. I will seek out ways to help my neighbors. Cheerfulness and joy will ride into our lives on acts of kindness; I’m seeking ways to remain on kindness the whole way into the lives of all those I meet. (Click here to learn about The Mighty Power of Kindness and 8 Ways to Teach Children to be Kind.)
  4. Express gratitude. In the midst of our abundance, we sometimes lose sight of how richly our families are blessed. We neglect to offer thanks and become burdened with the weight of ungratefulness and even entitlement. This year I will combat that sense of entitlement and say “thanks” to those who wait on my table at a restaurant or ring up my drink at the gas station. I will thank those who teach my children. I will thank my children and my spouse for all they do. I will become known as “the guy who always says thank you.” Wouldn’t you like to know that guy? Wouldn’t you be glad to help that guy? I would. This year, I’m going to “be that guy!” How about you? (Learn about more benefits of Intentional Gratitude in this short blog.)
  5. Practice acceptance. This may prove one of the hardest behaviors in my search for cheer this year. In the words of the serenity prayer, “I will accept the things I cannot change.” Bureaucracy will continue to mount its assault. Hassles will remain countless. Stressors will constantly arise. But, I will accept these impingements on my joy as reminders of what I have. The hassle of being caught in traffic reveals the blessing of owning a car. The bureaucracy that raises the cost of nearly everything reminds me that I have employment and income and opportunities. The stress of paying bills reminds me of the abundant material blessing I have—running water, TV, internet, heat, air conditioning, transportation, etc.—that many in the world are forced to live without. Which brings me to the final way I will spread cheer this year…
  6. Practice generosity. Our families truly are blessed. Unfortunately, those blessings sometimes enslave us and we begin to hoard the blessings. This year I will “break out of the hoard” and share…generously…as abundantly as possible. There is joy in giving, great joy. In fact, an ancient writer tells us that Jesus even said, “It is more blessed to give than receive.” Your act of generosity may even get paid forward in another act of generosity, creating a rippling effect from ground zero in the epidemic of cheerfulness (read about a way to Pay It Forward here).

 

I’m starting this year…ground zero for an epidemic of cheerfulness and joy. I’m making it a point to spread cheer in my family and beyond. The world MAY BE a better place for it; but my family and I WILL BE a happier people because of it. Will you make your family a happier people?

Someone Stole Christmas!

Don’t look now but someone stole Christmas! This thief is sly, too: he carefully replaces everything he takes with some other distraction. I first recognized the evidence of his felony while at the mall. Christmas kindness had disappeared, hijacked from the hearts of Thief pushing a trolley of giftsshoppers and replaced with pushing, shoving, and darting in front of others. Christmas joy has also come up missing, stolen and replaced with profane grumbling over slow cashiers and impatient demands for immediate service. That got me thinking. This thief has ripped off our sense of community and replaced it with a focus on individual rights and privileges as well. He has even snuck into our homes, taken our casual, intimate family time, and shoved frenetic schedules filled with crowd fighting and shopping sprees in its place. I think he even threatens to rob us of our very family, carefully replacing it with toys and gadgets that allow us to be alone, engaged in our own world while we sit in the same room! Someone needs to stop this little thief, catch him and teach him a thing or two. But, he is a shadowy figure, slipping through our hands and minds with no substance to grasp. He is elusive. We have to use a different tactic to end his reign. So, I’ve devised a plan. I hope you will join me in implementing this six-part plan to stop the thief of Christmas.

  1. The first step in stopping the thief of Christmas is keeping him from stealing the Christmas spirit from your own life. Model the Christmas spirit in your home and community. Practice kindness. Be polite. Look for opportunities to give generously of your time and money to others. Celebrate Christmas.
  2. Spend time with your family. Make time with your family a priority in your life. put down the video game, turn off the phone, and spend time in conversation with your family. Play a game like “Apples to Apples” or “The Game of Things.” Laugh. Talk. Enjoy time together.
  3. Invite another family over for Christmas games or snacks. Share some Christmas cookies. Practice sharing friendship, fun, and togetherness with others.
  4. Watch some Christmas specials. Talk about the message each one communicates. While you’re at it, watch the commercials and talk about the messages they communicate as well. It will likely provide an interesting contrast to discuss, the contrast of between the thief of Christmas displayed in the commercials and the true Christmas spirit communicated in the Christmas special. Just for fun, check out Jerry Seinfeld’s acceptance speech for the Clio–very insightful…and humorous.
  5. Create Christmas traditions. Traditions bring families together and keep families together. So, make it a Christmas tradition to decorate the tree together, give a gift to someone in need, attend a Christmas Eve service, visit a shut-in, back cookies…you get the idea. “Get your traditions on.”
  6. Remember what Christmas is all about…a gracious, generous, and holy God who gave a Child, His Son to ransom our freedom and adopt us into His family.

 

The foundation of this six-part plan rests on relationships. Intimate relationships with our family and community will protect us from the Christmas thief and guard us from his evil scheme to replace our heart’s true desire with counterfeit decoys. By the say, did I start this blog by saying “Don’t look now but someone stole Christmas”? Let me take that back. Open your eyes. Look now. Keep your eyes open to catch the Christmas thief and end his tyranny of robbery. Join me in practicing the six-part plan above to stop the thief of Christmas and find the true joy of Christmas.

The Greatest Christmas Gift You Can Share

businessman holding giftThe Christmas season has definitely arrived. I see it in the overwhelming traffic. I hear it in Christmas carols ringing in my ears. Amidst the hustle and bustle of Christmas shopping, baking, and decorating, I watch children count down to the “big day.” If you are like me, you love the anticipation of Christmas. Advent Calendars, the “Elf on a Shelf,” and journeying wise men help us build the expectation of Christmas. In the midst of this hustle and bustle, I like to sit down and contemplate the long awaited Christ Child and the new life He brings. It helps raise my own expectation and anticipation of the Christmas season. I am often struck at the contrast between our current Christmas priorities and those of the first Christmas. Maybe you are too. Jesus did not come to earth as one of the economically privileged, a member of the ruling class. Instead, He arrived in poverty, a member of a conquered and oppressed people. He could have entered the world as royalty; but, He came as a Servant.  Rather than setting His Son up in a position of power, God delivered Him to us in a stable, to a family with little resource and no influence. Unlike those of us who live in the “Land of Opportunity,” God did not try to give His Son privilege, prestige, power, or material wealth. Those things did not seem to make it onto God’s priority list for His Son. However, He did give His Son a family. Jesus did not just “pop up” in the desert as a Man with the power and influence to change the world. He arrived as a baby, born into a family, nurtured by a mother who “pondered all these things in her heart” and cherished her Son. He matured under the guidance of an earthly father who was willing to act swiftly to protect his family. Surely the family is one of God’s top priorities—not power, prestige, or material wealth, but family. God, the Father, made the gift of family a priority on that first Christmas day by giving Jesus a loving family to guide Him and nurture Him as He matured. Even more, He gave us Jesus (“unto us a Child is born”), a Brother who willingly gave His life so we might become part of His eternal family! Let’s follow God’s example this Christmas and share the gift of family with our parents, our spouses, our siblings, and our children. No other gift will make Christmas as meaningful as the gift of a loving, intimate family!

Keeping Thanksgiving Alive

Thanksgiving Day may have passed, but why not keep the giving of thanks alive in your family? When you make thanksgiving a part of your family’s everyday life, you will Writing thank you on a blackboard.experience amazing benefits. For instance, research suggests that families who make thanksgiving a daily practice are more helpful, generous, and compassionate toward one another. Family members are more forgiving as well. They feel more positive toward the person they thank and, interestingly, are more comfortable expressing concerns as well. Not only that, but practicing gratitude motivates the one receiving the thanks to work harder. And, the person who practices gratitude feels less lonely as well. With all these benefits, why not make the giving of thanks a daily activity in your family…keep thanksgiving alive all year round?  Here is one simple way to help you keep thanksgiving alive throughout the year. Start a family gratitude journal. Once a day get together as a family and let each person share two to three things for which they are thankful. Write them in the journal. Then, leave the journal in a public place throughout the day. Every time someone gets the urge, they can add a note of thanks to the journal. When you thank Mom for dinner, add it to the journal as well. When your son takes out the garbage, thank him…and then add it to the journal. When Dad goes to work in the morning, thank him for his hard work…and write it in the journal. When your sister shares her nail polish with you, give her a hug of thanks…and record it in the journal. If you don’t like the idea of a journal, do a “gratitude collage” or a “gratitude jar.” Whatever you choose, keep it up for a whole month and observe the impact of continued thanks will have on your family life. You will never want to quit!

Become the Catalyst for an Honorable Family

I often speak about honoring one another in the family. However, it is just as important (maybe more important) to become a person your family can honor. In fact, if we do not become a person worthy of honor, we set the whole family up for trouble. Consider what happened in Noah’s family when he acted dishonorably. Noah was a great man; but, after the flood he got drunk, a passed-out-laying-in-his-tent-naked-drunk. His son, Ham, found familysunhearthim, saw his father’s shame, and exposed his father’s dishonor by telling his brothers about his “find.” Noah had acted dishonorably by getting drunk. Ham had acted dishonorably by spreading the news of his father’s shame. These dishonorable acts ultimately resulted in Ham’s descendants living in servitude to their cousins (Genesis 9:25). The dishonorable actions of a father opened the door for his son to act dishonorably and for generations to live under the consequences of dishonor. Imagine the weight of that burden on Noah. You can avoid this heavy consequence by becoming a person of honor.  Here are several traits a person of honor exhibits. Read them carefully and start living a life of honor today…for your family’s sake!

  1. A person worthy of honor is humble. We admire a humble person. A humble person listens and accepts correction, allowing him to grow in character. He believes that others have important contributions to make and, as a result, listens carefully and takes those contributions to heart.
  2. A person worthy of honor is gracious. A gracious person gives his time and energy to help and support those around him. A gracious person forgives. He accepts that others make mistakes and patiently corrects misunderstandings. A gracious person accepts others in spite of any mistakes or misunderstandings. A gracious person is a person worthy of honor.
  3. A person worthy of honor shows kindness to others. A person of honor does not need a bumper sticker proclaiming “random acts of kindness.” Everyone around him observes his kindness and receives the benefits of his kindness. Acting in kindness is second nature to him. He loves to hold the door open for others, allow others to go first in traffic, or speak words of encouragement to the downhearted. Kindness is his modus operandi.
  4. A person worthy of honor accepts correction and discipline. An honorable person humbly accepts his own shortcomings. He realizes his imperfection and admits his mistakes. As a result, he not only accepts but cherishes the correction of others. He realizes that correction helps him grow and become a more honorable person.
  5. A person worthy of honor speaks the truth. We know we can trust the word of an honorable person. He does not tell even white lies. You can completely trust the person of honor because he has no hidden agendas. He lovingly speaks the truth.
  6. A person worthy of honor keeps his word. His “yes” is “yes” and his “no” is “no.” When an honorable person promises to do something for you, you know it will get done. He does not make idle promises or promises he cannot keep. This adds to our willingness to trust a person of honor.
  7. A person worthy of honor works to provide for himself and his family. An honorable person does not trick others to make a gain. He does not connive and conspire to get ahead. Instead, he works hard. He works hard in response to his love for family. He works hard so no one has to carry the burden of caring for his needs. He works hard for the joy of helping others in their time of need.
  8. A person worthy of honor is generous. An honorable person gives to others with no expectation of return. He gives simply for the joy of giving. This does not mean he gives frivolously. He shares from his abundance with those who have need; but, he does so wisely, as a good steward. He not only shares his material wealth, but he shares his time and effort as well.
  9. A person of honor stands firm in his beliefs. He is not easily swayed. You know where he stands and what he believes. There is no guessing or fear about what he believes or how he will act. He is open and firm. Although he stands firm in his beliefs, he does not become rude. Instead, he remains firm in a loving and polite manner.

 

To build a family of honor, become a person of honor. Practice these nine attributes to become a person of honor. Your family will honor you and thank you…and you will enjoy the benefits of an honor filled family for generations to come.

Thanksgiving…A Day or Always?

Thanksgiving is more than a seasonal discussion of gratitude…more than a big family meal…more than a day of watching football. Thanksgiving, in my opinion, is a way of life. A lifestyle of thanksgiving provides many benefits to a family life. In fact, after reading these five benefits of thanksgiving, you might decide to let the day of Thanksgiving this year “jump start” a whole year of gratitude for your family.

  • A lifestyle of thanksgiving teaches us to appreciate the blessings we have. A thankful family replaces a sense of entitlement with an appreciation for the unearned gifts received…gifts like someone doing our laundry, preparing our meals, or paying the bills to keep our house warm in the winter and cool in the summer. A lifestyle of thanksgiving will takes us a step further to realize that every breath we take, every heartbeat that sends blood coursing through our body, and every time we run down the stairs are gifts we have been freely given. We truly are a blessed people.
  • Count Your Blessings on a cork notice boardThanksgiving replaces a selfish attitude with an attitude of generosity. As we realize how much we have received and how freely it was given, our desire to share will increase. We will become more generous. Generosity in a family leads to more acts of kindness and sharing…something else for which we can give thanks.
  • Thanksgiving helps us develop greater peace of mind. When we neglect to offer thanks for the gifts we have received, our selfish desires grow. We look at what we do not have and experience want, a growing desire for more. We experience envy. We grow demanding. A lifestyle of thanksgiving puts our desire in perspective. Thanksgiving turns our focus toward the blessings we have received, the abundant material blessing we have, and the amazing opportunities each day presents. Gratitude replaces desire and envy. Giving thanks replaces demanding. A lifestyle of thanksgiving helps us focus on how much we have to be thankful for.
  • A lifestyle of thanksgiving increases our joy and hope. As we focus on the blessings and gracious gifts we have received, we build a joyous past. We nurture an expectation that our future will be provided as well. We no longer need to worry and fret over what the future holds. Instead, the joys of thanksgiving will have strengthened the realization that God does provide and that life is good. We will have established a hope based on the memories of thanksgiving, a hope that God will also take care of our tomorrow. No need to worry, give thanks.
  • A lifestyle of thanksgiving even helps make tough times more bearable. For three ways thanksgiving does this read Intentional Gratitude.

A lifestyle of thanksgiving can benefit our families all year long! Why not let this season of Thanksgiving “jump start” a year of gratitude for your family? You can practice thanksgiving all year round by starting a thanksgiving tree, a gratitude journal, or simply making a point of thanking one another every day for something. Believe me, the benefits will prove priceless!

Bake Your Way to a Family Fun Night

Baking together is a great way to celebrate family.  Gather your family into the kitchen to bake a pie, a cake, cookies, bread, or all of the above. Decide ahead of time what you would like to bake and gather the ingredients. Let each family member participate in “the mixing of the ingredients” and “taste-testing” along the way (my job in the family bake off is often that of taste-tester!) When it is all put together, pop it in the oven.

Apple Pie

Let anticipation build while your masterpiece bakes. After all, the best part of this family fun night is yet to come. Enjoy the aroma of freshly baked pie. Watch the cookies melt into shape. Stand in awe as the bread rises. Let your mouth water and your stomach growl in anticipation of my favorite part of this family fun night. Finally, when everything the baking is done, slice up your treat and eat it warm, fresh out of the oven. Nothing is better than warm cookies that bend when you pick them up…or bread that steams when you slice it and melts the butter immediately…or hot pie that melts the ice cream. The anticipation of this treat is matched only by the satisfied taste buds that prompt smiling faces!

 

For a real adventure, double the recipe and give half of your family project away. Give a loaf of bread to a local shut-in. Take a cake to a local nursing home for the staff to enjoy. Plate up a dozen cookies for your mailman. Not only will you have a great family fun night but you will teach your children a wonderful lesson in generosity and kindness as well.  And, truth be told, nothing is more fun than giving to others as a family!

8 Ways to Teach Children to Be Kind to Others

  1. Model kindness. You didn’t think I would start anyplace else, did you? Whatever we want our children to learn, we have to practice ourselves. So, be kind to your children. Be kind to your spouse. Be kind to friends. Be kind to strangers.
  2. HandEncourage children to think kindly about others. Here are three ways you might consider doing this include: Pray for others. Take turns with your children recalling kind deeds you observed during the day. Take turns with your children recalling kind deeds you engaged in during the day.
  3. Let your children take personal responsibility for the acts of kindness they engage in. Instead of giving your child money to donate to a charity, let them earn the money through chores and give a portion of their choice to the charity they choose. Be creative coming up with ways your children can take personal responsibility in their show of kindness.
  4. Teach your children to consider other people’s feelings. You can do this by acknowledging their emotions—“That seems like it really makes you sad” or “Wow, you really look happy.” Acknowledge other people’s emotions as well.  Perhaps a friend was mean because “he doesn’t feel well” or a friend was crying because “she gets sad when people tease her.” You get the idea. Help your child look beyond the outward behavior to see the underlying emotion.
  5. Expose your child to need. Of course, we need to do this at an age appropriate level, but do not shelter your child from the needs around them. Depending on their age, they might understand the need for water in some countries, an elderly person’s need for friendly interaction, or a friend’s need for a hug.
  6. Along with exposing your child to need, give them the opportunity to volunteer and meet the needs of others. This can range from helping an elderly neighbor with yard work to working with an inner city food bank to raising money for a mission to taking a mission trip. When you child sees a need and expresses a desire to help, assist them in volunteering.
  7. Create giving traditions. As a family, develop traditions that involve giving to one another and to those outside your family. You might give toys to a charity each year or a financial donation to some charity. Maybe you will give gifts to friends and neighbors at special times throughout the year. Be creative and develop some giving traditions.
  8. Encourage small acts of kindness. Teach your child to pick up trash rather than simply pass it by. Encourage your child to hold the door open for others, speak politely, offer to pick up something they see another person drop, give a hug to a friend in need…the list goes on. Encourage small acts of kindness.

 

What are some ways your family has carried out these 8 suggestions? What other suggestions would you add? How have you taught your children to be kind?

Pay It Forward…The Surprising “Rest of the Story” For Your Family

We all know and love the “pay it forward” stories. Just last Christmas (2013), a customer at Starbucks generously paid for the order of the next person in line, who also paid for the person in line behind them, and so on…for 1,468 customers! (Read this story here) I also Parents kissing their cute little babylove the commercial (Watch it here) for “Random Acts of Kindness” in which one person shows kindness, inspiring the recipient of that act of kindness to show kindness to another person, who is inspired to do the same…and on down the line, contributing to an ongoing spiral of kindness that results in an Utopian environment of generosity and joy. We love these stories…. I love these stories. But, research suggests this is only part of the story. As Paul Harvey used to say, we need to know “the rest of the story.” People do not only pay generosity and kindness forward. We also pay greed forward. In fact, generosity gets paid forward more often as equality and fairness not as more generosity. And, people tend to pay greed forward more vigorously than generosity. Research suggests this is true for work tasks as well as finances. So, if we are the recipients of a stingy, greedy gift…or, if we are given the worst chores while someone else does the easier, “more enjoyable” chores, we may pass on the greedy, boring task out of our frustration and anger.

 

What does this mean for our families? An act of kindness to another family member may actually inspire more acts of kindness. A show of generosity toward family may promote more “fair sharing” among family members in the future. Acts of kindness and generosity can create an environment that promotes further kindness and sharing, an upward spiral leading to greater intimacy, joy, and celebration. On the other hand, sticking other family members with the worst chores will encourage them to do the same to another family member. Stinginess, greed, and self-centered actions and decisions by a family member can create a family environment promoting further greed and self-centeredness, a downward spiral leading to further frustration, isolation, and pain. Which environment will you promote in your family? The choice is yours. Start building an upward spiral by practicing kindness and generosity within your family.

 

By the way, if you find your family already in a downward spiral initiated by stinginess, greed, and self-centeredness, there is hope! The study mentioned earlier also found the negative emotions that drive us to pay greed forward can be reduced and even reversed. In the study, simply having a person rate how much they enjoyed three cartoons (a fun, humorous task) reduced the likelihood of passing the greed forward. So, if your family is caught in the downward spiral of stinginess and self-centeredness, reverse the cycle by stopping “one thing” and introducing “two new things.”  First, stop “one thing”—engaging in stingy, self-centered behavior. Second, introduce “two new things”—kindness and generosity. Think about the other person and offer to do the more menial task (an act of generosity and kindness). Third, add some fun into your family. Play some fun game. Share some funny cartoons or your favorite joke. You can do all three of these things at the same time. Do all three and watch as your family spiral changes direction and becomes an upward spiral motivated by kindness, generosity, and celebration.

6 Simple Ways to Build Happy Families

My oldest daughter is leaving for college this month. As she prepares to leave, I have thought about how I want her to remember her time growing up with us. (Yes I know, I should have thought about that 18 years ago; and, I did begin thinking about it then. I guess the woman who said, “You’re a slow thinker” was right.) Anyway, I hope my daughter recalls our family as a family filled with happiness. I hope that in the process of growing up, we have taught her the skills needed to create happiness in her own life as well. Here are some ways that you can build a family environment of happiness as well…before your daughter gets ready to leave for college!

     ·     Teach generosity. Generous people are happy people. To create a happy family, practice generosity. Practice generosity toward one another. Practice generosity toward those outside your family.  Tip with generosity. Share with generosity. Model generosity.

·     Encourage exercise. Research has shown over and over that exercise contributes to happiness. So, as a family, develop an active lifestyle. Go for walks together. Ride your bike. Hike. Walk to the store once in a while rather than taking the car all the time. Work out together. Play Ultimate Frisbee. Enjoy physical activity as a family.


·     Teach to plan ahead. Anticipation builds excitement and happiness. Think about the excitement we experience as we anticipate the generous sharing of Christmas or the achievement of some goal we have worked toward. You can build this anticipation by involving the whole family in planning for various family celebrations such as holidays or birthdays. My kids love planning a surprise for their mother’s birthday or Mother’s Day; and, even a small surprise builds joy and happiness. Discover your children’s interests and help them set small achievable goals in those areas. Watch their excitement and happiness grow as they achieve these small steps. 


·     Listen to music. Enjoy music together. Sing, dance, and make music together. Or, join a choir as a family. Enjoy a concert. It is hard to be sad and unhappy for very long when you are enjoying music together. (Read this to learn more about the power of music for families)


·     Build friendships. Develop friendships with people with whom you can share adventures. Not only can you experience the adventure with your friends, you can also
 recall the adventures with your friends. Recalling our shared adventures is almost as fun as the actual adventure…sometimes even more fun. Develop friendships as a family. Encourage your children to develop friendships as individuals.


·     List three good things that happened. At the end of each day, tell your family about three good things that happened today. Listen as they tell you about three good things that happened to them. Studies have found that recalling the good events of each day can increase happiness and decrease depression.

 Practicing the six activities above can help fill you family with joy and happiness. Your family will be a place filled with happiness, a place your children will remember as happy. As your children start families of their own, your home can remain a place of happiness, a place your grandchildren will want to visit because of the happiness that fills every corridor…and that will definitely increase your happiness!

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