Baby, Give Your Best: Lessons in Generosity from a 4 Year Old

My 4 year old daughter has a sweet, giving spirit. She runs all over our house (and outside, for that matter) collecting all sorts of things, coloring, cutting, and pasting mashed-up masterpieces crafted by busy hands. I am walking the fine line of praising her for her creativity and generosity while challenging her to think about what the recipient of her gift might like. “Honey, I know you really like that paper scrap you tore from your pre-school workbook, but to our neighbor, that just looks like trash.”

Her eyes become big and wet with disappointment. Her lip quivers, and I want to take my words back, but I know they are true. “Let’s think about what she would like. We could paste that onto a butterfly, and I will teach you to write her name. I bet she would like that.” Of course, I know that either masterpiece will end up in the same place. Here, we call it the dustbin.

This morning, in obedience, she threw something in and spotted one of her handicrafts inside. She gave me the third degree about trashing something she worked so feverishly to create. We talk about what happens to paper scraps left in common spaces, and she finds it in her tiny heart to forgive me and promises she will keep her artwork upstairs from this day forward.

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We gather some supplies and remember the task at hand: revising this trash into a treasure worth gifting. I want her to believe that the work we do for others is valuable and that being thoughtful is an admirable trait. I don’t want to crush her creativity or squish her generous spirit. I love that she desires to make others smile and spend time creating something to offer to another. But giving hands offering scrappy seconds is not giving at all. We want to give our best. We want to give until it hurts. We want to share our bag of imported Reese cups, even if we’d rather lock them in the upstairs closet for a rainy day (bad example, I know, but chocolate is really important to me!). We drive across town for birthday gifts and sit in traffic instead of buying something cheap from the shop around the corner because we believe this. These small acts of thoughtfulness make big impressions.

I write down our neighbor’s name and send the budding artist upstairs to sit at her desk with the special markers we don’t use often and the paper bags from America we use to make puppets and to quick-ripen peaches. She painstakingly copies her Auntie’s name and puts about twelve too many hearts on her creation. The puppet’s face is smiling, and so is mine. My daughter is proud, and I am, too.

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It’s a few minutes shy of 8 am, and she is ready to walk over there and present her prize. I’m off to get her dressed for school, and we will go with dust-bin-destined art in hand to deliver this piece of her heart before her bus arrives to shuttle her to the place that overflows with paper scraps, scissors, and glue.

I’ll stay behind to clean up the debris of crazed crafting hands and smile, thinking of the baby who seems more like the child of Mother Theresa and Picasso than the flesh and blood of her Daddy and me. I bring the Reese cups downstairs, brew a cup of coffee -the good stuff- and invite a neighbor over to share.

As I sip the fresh brew and chat with a new friend, I think about giving my best to God. How so often my best, looks like nothing more than a mangled up mess of trash. It isn’t treasure in anyone’s eyes. But it is good and acceptable, pleasing to my Father for no other reason than He loves me. I seek only His approval, and knowing I already have it, I busy myself with the work He puts in my hands to do. I proudly give it back to Him, as unimpressive as it may seem, trusting He will find the good in it. Even if its creator is backwards at best, I’m hopeful that, by His grace, my offerings make a difference to someone in this world.

I trust that He will bring to light the things that bring Him glory and throw everything else in the dustbin where it belongs. I’ll try not to get my feelings hurt knowing He knows the value of all things, and it all belonged to Him in the first place anyway. I’ll practice thoughtful generosity because I remember that my doing unto others is a reflection of the God that works in and through me. Half-effort jobs and scrappy seconds just won’t cut it.

He reminds me of all the good gifts he’s buried me under and urges me to love others well out of my abundance. He says, “Baby, give your best.”

 

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Moments of Hope @ LoriSchumaker.com, Monday’s Musings @ What Joy is Mine, Glimpses Linkup @ Embracing Every Day, Literacy Musing Monday’s @ Mary-andering Creatively, Tuesday Talk @ Sweet Little Ones, RaRaLinkup @ Purposeful Faith, Tell His Story @ Jennifer Dukes Lee