Lesson: Recently my husband and I were talking about options we might consider for celebrating our youngest children’s birthdays as they get older. As we were talking, I was reminded of a young lady that I interviewed for a teaching position many years ago. I remember her sharing the many experiences she thought contributed to her well roundedness and ability to be a teacher. She indicated that her most significant learning experiences didn’t come from college courses but from the many experiences that were gifted to her throughout her years growing up. She shared that her grandfather really pushed giving the children in the family “experiences” for their birthdays and holiday gifts instead of materials items. As a result, she had a plethora of memories and life lessons that she gained during those special times she shared with her family. Whether it was a trip to a foreign country or a hiking trip where they used a compass to find the way to their cabin getaway.
The other lesson that the young lady indicated she learned from her family’s way of giving was to not yearn for things. She was never told to make a list of gifts she wanted for Christmas or a birthday. So she didn’t spend time contemplated what new things to put on her wish list. She learned at an early age what to truly value in life and it wasn’t material possessions. It was time spent enjoying your loved ones, learning everything you can while you can and paying it forward to the next generation every time the opportunity presents itself. Talk about primary greatness!
Before we could offer her the job she ended up taking a teaching position over seas. However, I was able to have one final conversation with her before her departure. I found out that her grandfather was actually a very wealthy man, a wealthy man that lived in a modest home, drove a modest car, didn’t wear high-end labels or brands and didn’t flaunt his wealth in any way. In fact, she didn’t know that her grandparents were wealthy while she was growing up. She didn’t even think money was important at all based on what they taught her to value in life.
As I retell her story now, I can’t recall what I did or what I received for most birthdays but if I would have gone on a hiking trip to a cabin when I was 10 or 11, I think I would have remembered that! 🙂 I’ve interviewed many people over the years but this young lady really made an impression on me. So young, yet so wise, largely due to the life experiences she attained throughout her childhood. I purposefully tucked away her story and thought about it from time to time. I now find it even more meaningful and relevant at this time in my life! As I often ponder on the endless possibilities of how I can enrich the quality of my children’s lives, this shift in perspective ranks high on the list!
How many of us have spent hundreds of dollars on a child for a birthday or special occasion, only to ask them 6 months down the road if they are enjoying what you gave them and they can’t even remember what the gift was! To be honest, that doesn’t just happen with children. How many of us are overly inundated with stuff? Stuff we don’t use, stuff we don’t need and even stuff we don’t want, given to us by well-intentioned loved ones. So why not consider this paradigm shift the next time we are considering how to gift someone or the next time we are asked what we want for a special occasion or birthday. This is something I am going to challenge myself to do with my children. Won’t you join me on this mission?
Application: Consider applying the “gifting experiences” frame of mind the next time you consider what gift to give a child or loved one.