Since I've started blogging, I've discovered some fun surprises. One of those surprises is the talented women who continuously inspire me.
Meet Jen, one of those amazing women. Last time Jen visited, she discussed her Selflessness Chart. Today she has returned to give us a follow-up.
Have her kids miraculously sprouted wings and halos? Not yet, but her husband has been observed completing the laundry from start to finish, and that my friends, gives you a serious reason to read on.
Ages ago, I wrote a guest post about how I made a “selfless chart” for my family because I was going insane listening to my children argue over their toys, their turns, and anything else that could at any point in time be called “mine.”
I would love to tell you that since using the chart, my children are no longer selfish, that we have all banished our self-centered ways, that we rarely buy anything for ourselves, and that we spend hours volunteering in the homeless community.
The chart worked, but not quite that well.
As with any behavior chart, once it’s filled up, the kids (and parents, too) seem to lose a bit of momentum toward exhibiting (and eliciting) the desired behavior because they are not working toward an external reward. I think we all lost a bit of that motivation after we had our big family celebration, but I do believe that there were some fundamental shifts in our family dynamics. As with anything, routine practice forms habits. Habits lead to lifestyle changes. Lifestyle changes lead to deep internalizations of what we truly value and what we find to be most important.
The chart provided plenty of opportunities for us to practice selflessness. It offered a point of departure for us to have serious conversations about what it means to deny our own wants and desires in order to accommodate and give to someone else. It gave us an opportunity to watch for unselfish behavior in each other. Routinely, one of my daughters would rush to tell me about how her sister chose to let her pick the movie that day, share a special toy, or let her go first in a game. It motivated me to bless my husband, to go out of my way to do things for him that I would not really consider unless he
begged asked me (like giving backrubs at 10:30 at night). In turn, he would surprise me by cooking AND doing the dishes, making the bed without being asked, assuming the job of doing the laundry from start to finish, without leaving that last load in the dryer for me to discover, wrinkled and damp, three days later.
The original selfless chart is long gone, but the quest to be selfless lives on. In preparation for the upcoming holiday giving season, I’ve tried to intensify our focus on selfless behavior outside the confines of our family or friends. What does it cost us to give to those who routinely go without? What is the cost of not giving? Which is greater? So, we go to Target fill our Operation Christmas Child boxes and choose to not buy things for ourselves while we are there. We pray for and write letters to Muhamed, our World Vision child that we sponsor. We look for ways to volunteer at food banks and shelters. (Please note, I said look. We have not yet started our volunteering yet, but the idea is there!)
The point of all this is that 1) I want my children to learn the lesson about giving early. From a very early age, they are subject to worldly goods and attitudes. The world makes it seem that it is accumulation of things that brings joy. What I want my children to realize is that instant gratification of buying material goods will not satisfy their souls. 2) I want them to experience that it truly is more blessed to give than to receive. I want them to realize that it is not the contents of their room, but the content of their hearts that really make up their worth. It is a lesson that I need to remind myself, daily.
Go visit Jen at Finding Heaven, and if you are looking for community in this crazy blogosphere, consider participating in Soli Deo Gloria Sisterhood. It’s a new meme, and I promise you will meet some talented friends.
Oh, and guess what? It’s every Tuesday, and Tuesday just happens to be tomorrow. So, I hope to see you there.