On Sunday I read the best story about generosity I’ve ever read. It was written by my niece, Michelle Kornelsen Hauge on her blog, www.strategicparenting.us. I asked her if I could share her story on my blog, and she agreed. If you would like to be added to Michelle’s email list to get regular notifications of her blog posts, you can email her at email@example.com.
Michelle and her husband Kerry have adopted four children and have cared for many more foster children. They take their role as parents very seriously, and are trying to share what they are learning about parenting on their blog. Michelle home-schools the kids, and she also helps Kerry in their three home-based businesses – Jim’s Country Fireplace, Paradise Pond Shop, and Paradise Park (where they host outdoor weddings in their beautifully landscaped back yard).
I’m not a parent, but I find something new to think about every week when I read Michelle’s blog. This week, the theme is generosity. I’ve always thought that my mom was the most generous person I’ve ever known. After reading this post, I think Michelle and Kerry’s kids may have Mom beat.
Surpassed in Giving
by Michelle Kornelsen Hauge (from http://www.strategicparenting.us/)
It’s humbling to be surpassed by your kids. But good.
We’ve been putzing with the process of selling our old minivan, unsure of how much to ask for it. We finally came to an amount and posted it on Craig’s List, along with an honest description of its many problems.
A week passed, with a few low offers.
Tuesday, just as we began hosting an evening meeting, a man arrived who wanted to buy it now, for a third less than we’d asked. We agreed, quickly re-iterated what needed fixing, signed the title and took his payment. It wasn’t much for a van, but it would pay some bills. In the rush, he drove off with only an ignition key.
Wednesday evening, he began calling and leaving phone messages. By the time I arrived and picked up, he was frantic. His mechanic had the van on a hoist, and was pointing out the problems. They were just as we had described for him the night before. I reminded him of this.
“But I thought they were just little fixes when you said it.” A torrent of frustrations poured across the phone line, intensity building by the minute.
My response was defensive, not compassionate.
I finally cut in, saying that if he wanted to return it, he’d have to come back tomorrow when Kerry was home.
As I washed the dinner dishes, my mind continued the argument.
“You won’t get a van that cheap that doesn’t need repairs … not unless someone gives you one.”
The word stuck in my heart like a burr.
“Is that You, God?”
If it was, I decided, Kerry would think it was.
He did. If we gave the man his money back, Kerry reasoned, he could use it for the needed repairs. Kerry never flinches when it comes to giving.
We’ve given old cars away before, but never to angry strangers. This was a stretch for me.
We decided to pull the kids into the process.
The next morning, before the man was due to arrive, we focused our prayer time on his family. Part of his rantings had included a long list of their needs, so we had a starting point.
In the process of praying, the kids decided they wanted to give too. They painstakingly wrote up encouraging scriptures, such as Isaiah 41:10 –
Then they raided their money envelopes. Some took out every cent they had. Some chose a generous portion. Pockets were stuffed with readied gifts.
We expected him at 9:00. It came and went. We began math … and finished it. Spelling. Reading. Language lessons. Lunch. The day was long and pregnant with anticipation. We knew he’d come; we still had the keys.
Eleven hours later, as we were preparing for bed, the shout rang out: “He’s here!” The kids scrambled around, digging through the laundry to find their gifts, then dashed outside in their pajamas.
By the time I arrived on the scene, the kids were being embraced. Kerry pulled me off to the side and said, “He’s happy tonight. His mechanic was able to fix everything, and his father-in-law paid for it all.” We had three seconds to decide: What now?
We didn’t give him his money back.
The kids basked that evening in the after-glow of their generosity.
Kerry and I considered what to do.
We eventually determined that the money’s God’s. The next day we decided where to give it. Today the hand-off will take place.
We admire the carefree abandon of our kids’ giving. It seems to somehow surpass the caution of our own. Balance is needed, but this may be one way a small child will lead us.
Time for a new blog? “Strategic Childhood” may be in order.