One of the greatest joys I have ever experienced as a dad is teaching my kids the joy of serving others. There is a lie that many of us in society have bought, not only for ourselves but for our kids to follow. The lie is that loving and taking care of #1 is the most importance. I have been briefly happy, but never full of joy by serving and loving myself. I have however witnessed a lot of people that live fulfilled lives by serving others with their time, resources and talents.
My family is unapologetically Christian. We have a very strong belief system and are compelled to serve in our home churches. While many people will not associate gratification with anything that they are compelled to do, let me state that for us, this is not the case. I believe that we are created to love and serve others. I have never experienced more of a sense of purpose in life than putting faith in action. My prayer is that my children and their children will hold fast to this wonderful lifestyle.
I started out with my children, identifying people in need. We would discuss it together. I would ask my kids if they noticed the same need that I did. Many times this would be a family that had either material needs or needed someone to helo them with a personal task. I would ask my children what they thought God would want us to do in that particular situation. Without exception, their response was to give or to work help those with the need, for the need to be met.
On one occasion, we encountered a family that had been wiped out by Hurricane Katrina. They literally came to our communities with what they could stuff in the car. Everything else was gone. My oldest son noticed that an elderly parent who was bound by a wheelchair just sat around doing nothing in their small apartment. My boy asked me if he could give this elderly man his t.v. I was so choked up with pride. What an amazing experience that this was for our family. To see your children set an example for others in a selfless manner elevates you as a dad to the mountain tops. When I have told that story before, I have had people say, “well, you didn’t really let him give away his t.v., did you?” Of course, I did, and he was happier for it.
Something that we need to keep in mind is that an accomplishment contains more satisfaction than a material object. This is because it allows oneself to identify their character. In the book, The Price of Privilege, by Dr. Madeline Levine, it is discussed how possessions or lack thereof have very little to do with happiness, but the sense of knowing oneself has a significant impact.
Another part of this lesson is for your kids to come to understand what “greatness” is. Albert Einstein was quoted saying, “The value of a man should be seen in what he gives, not in what he is able to receive.” To this day, I am never awed by those that have a lot. However, I am moved by those that give sacrificially. When we live in a world that takes and takes, it is wonderful to see people that will do all they can to help those in need, especially strangers. The “value” of those people is unmeasurable. Do you want your kids to be respected and admired? This comes hand in hand with acts of selflessness, never self-elevation, possessions, or desired social status. It is very simple. Love and serve people. The respect is automatic. However, when the desire is to be respected above serving others, the two never co-exist. Those that do for others only to be praised, are usually viewed with less regard than those that do nothing. In my personal view, those who serve to serve themselves not only fail to achieve respect but also rob others of the joy of serving in that specific capacity at that time. The bible states that only in humility is there true exaltation. “For those that exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.
As a Christian, I look to the example that Christ gave, taken upon himself the role of a servant, washing the feet of the disciples. This action lacked any glory. There was nothing of prestige by serving in this capacity. Yet, he demonstrated it to show the disciples how they should serve others.
I want my kids to be valued and respected. I want them to have joy and fulfillment in life. How ironic it is that both goals can be achieved by selflessness, giving, and a servant’s heart. Teach your kids the true source of value and joy. Be the best dad possible.