I am very excited today to introduce you to an essential member of the Raise & Shine team, my Stewardship Corespondent, Mike Nevergall. If I take on the role of CDO – Child Development Officer – then Mike would be our designated CGO – Chief Giving Officer. With a Masters in Nonprofit Administration and as the Vice President of Agency Advancement at Upbring (Check them out! They are doing such fantastic work right now! I am beyond proud!), he is more than qualified to share with me, and thus with you, how to inspire a spirit of giving back in the family. It only seemed natural to have him be our first guest blogger to share with you about a giving project we started this year with our family. Here’s what he shares with us today…
As someone who raises money for a living, I find it helpful to be naturally inquisitive. One of my favorite questions to ask the generous people with whom I visit is who demonstrated generosity to them. For most folks, the answer is their parents and grandparents, as it is for me.
As a pastor’s kids, my brother and I learned at an early age about giving back through our weekly church offering. But there are also two particular experiences from my dad’s time in seminary that stand out to me as lessons that not everyone was as fortunate as my family. One experience was a trip to a soup kitchen where we prepared and served a hot meal for homeless men seeking a few moments of refuge on a cool Columbus, Ohio evening. The other experience was a trip to south Florida over Christmas break in 1992 where we built temporary shelters in the back yards of homes left heavily damaged by Hurricane Andrew, allowing the families who lived there to stay on their own property while they put the pieces of their lives back together.
Rachel and I were having our monthly budget meeting recently – do we know how to have fun or what? – and I mentioned that I wanted to increase our charitable giving a bit. My lovely wife, ever the child development expert, said she wanted to find a way to involve the kids. What if, she said, we picked a different organization or cause each month to support with some combination of a financial gift, a material donation, or by volunteering our time. Then we could talk to Caroline about what we were doing, let her help pick out food or clothing items, and talk about why some people don’t have clean drinking water or how some kids aren’t able to live with their mom and dad. We could even make a bulletin board, she said. (I may have rolled my eyes at that last part.)
So far, it seems to be going well. We picked out a backpack and school supplies for a child in a community our church supports in the Rio Grande Valley. We gave a gift to help construct a library in Tanzania where our dear friends serve as missionaries. (We even learned where Tanzania is on the globe, in comparison to Texas.) We’re talking to a three year old so the lessons are simple. Be kind is certainly a common theme. Or asking what it would feel like not to have a library or a backpack. But you have to start somewhere, right?
Maybe you’ve heard the story of the girl who was walking down a beach covered in starfish. As she walked along, she would pick up a starfish and throw it back into the ocean. And then another. And another. A stranger walking on the beach saw her doing this and called out, “Why are you doing that? You can’t possibly help all of them.”
“No,” the girl said, stooping down to pick up another starfish and throwing it back into the ocean. “But I made a big difference for that one.”
I was talking to a friend at church this weekend, and she shared that their daughter was recently asking some good questions about the people she saw living under a highway overpass. For example, why can’t they live in our house? Good questions, but tough ones to answer when you’re talking to a little one. We want them to be exposed to the world around them, but we also want to protect them from the hurt and the pain and the sadness that can sometimes overwhelm the adults in their world.
I work for an organization which wants to end child abuse in Texas. I believe wholeheartedly that it’s the right mission to have, and that we have a great team and the right plan to make it happen, but there are days when I feel overwhelmed, wondering if we’ve bitten off more than we can chew. That’s when I think about the girl on the beach, throwing back the starfish.
If I may extend the metaphor a little further, I think parenting sometimes feels like that beach. There is a seemingly endless stream of things to do “the right way” and worrying about how it will shape them as they get older. (Alright, so, some things are more consequential than others.) At the end of my day, I want my children to be empathetic, aware of the world beyond themselves and kind to everyone with whom they come in contact.
Who modeled giving and generosity for you? How do you model it for your own children? We’re starting with something small here in our home, and I certainly invite you to give it a try for yourselves. As we gather with loved ones this week to give thanks for all with which we have been blessed, it is also a good time to remember those in need, in our neighborhood and around the world.
Now back to me again...(Well that was fun, and easy. Now I see how bloggers make it big. They just hire out others to do their work. Let's see...who else can I call on for "expert corresponding"?)
I'll never forget the thanksgiving one year when my parents told me I was going to go with a friend to help hand out Thanksgiving Dinner at the local shelter. I did not go willingly. But I would miss the parade! Despite my resistance, though, I will never forget coming home feeling humbled. I was blessed to be able to come to the dinner table when called expecting to see a bounty with little effort on my part. I was taught, with a simple act, that I was blessed and needed to share that. Sharing food, to this day, is how I feel called to nourish and heal.
I speak often on here about the necessity to model and shape these little people by sharing with them parts of our lives. I love imagining the small lessons we do everyday with our children may one day have greater change impact. I hope I can call on Mike again to share with us other ways to teach our children how to be generous, thoughtful people. (Not so subtle nudge for free blog content.)