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Teaching Your Kids Kindness: No Money? Give Your Time

This lesson is a part of an audio course Teaching Your Kids Kindness and Patience by Paul Andrew Smith

Giving some of what you have to those less fortunate is one way to think about charity. But what if you don't have anything? Does that mean you can't be charitable? Of course not. And a beautiful example of that comes from Noemi Abrinica and her son, Marvin.

When Marvin was growing up in Cleveland, his family wasn't the wealthiest among his friends. But he does remember his mother, Noemi, being very generous to others with one particular thing – food. She threw amazing holiday parties for the other Filipino families nearby. She helped them celebrate with egg rolls and Filipino noodles, and other traditional dishes. "And," he said, " she would always make more than anyone could possibly eat. So inevitably, my mom would package these take-home plates. So everyone left with even more food."

He remembers asking her, "Mom, why do you cook all this food? It seems like such a waste." And in response, Noemi Abrinica told him this story.

When she was a little girl, growing up in Manila, in the Philippines, her family was very poor. But her parents made sure that every day when she left for school, that she was well fed. Not every child in her school was as fortunate. The whole country was still recovering from World War II, and poverty was widespread.

She said, "There was always at least one child in class who hadn't eaten that day." It broke Noemi's heart to see them suffering in silence. After a while, she just couldn't bear to see other children starving right in front of her. So she decided to do something about it.

Noemi lived next to a rice field. At the end of the growing season, the farmers harvested their crops. But the reaping methods were never 100% efficient. So the fields were always left with a scattering of rice. After school each day, Noemi took a 5-gallon plastic bucket out to the fields and picked up abandoned grains of rice. When her bucket was full, she took it to the local market to sell it for a few pesos. And with that money, she bought some food and brought it to school to feed whoever hadn't eaten that day. Then after school, she did it again. And again. And again.

And so to Noemi, being poor didn't mean you had nothing to give. It just meant you had to be a little more creative, and perhaps work a little harder to do it. And for the rest of her life, that compassion and love, and the charity have continued to show up in the form of food.

Her story helped Marvin understand why she always made too much food at her parties. And it surely taught him something much more important about charity – that you don't have to be wealthy to be charitable.

So – what are you doing after school today?

Okay, share this story with your child, and then have a discussion about it. Here are some questions to get you started.

  1. Do you know anyone who doesn't get enough food to eat every day?

  2. Can you imagine how difficult it must be to concentrate and study if you're hungry?

  3. Have you ever volunteered your time to a charitable organization? What was it? And how did you feel when you finished?

  4. What is the difference in giving people food to eat versus giving them money to buy their own food? What are some of the pros and cons of doing each one?

  5. Well, What are you doing after school today?

Okay, for the next three lessons, we're going to turn our attention from Kindness to Patience.

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Written by

Paul Andrew Smith