Image from allposters.com
‘Merry Christmas, little daughters! I’m glad that you began at once, and hope you will keep on. But I want to say one word before we sit down. Not far away from here lies a poor woman with a little new-born baby. Six children are huddled into one bed to keep from freezing, for they have no fire. There is nothing to eat over there; and the oldest boy came to tell me they were suffering hunger and cold. My girls will you give them your breakfast as a Christmas present?’ They were all unusually hungry, having waited nearly an hour, and for a minute no on spoke; only a minute, for Jo exclaimed impetuously: “I’m so glad you came before we began!”…..That was a very happy breakfast, though they didn’t get any of it; and when they went away, leaving comfort behind, I think there were not in all the city four merrier people than the hungry little girls who gave away their breakfasts and contented themselves with bread and milk on Christmas Morning.
Little Woman by Louisa M. Alcott
It’s so important to read good stories when you are young. I can’t even begin to explain the impact of certain books on my life, that I read at a young age. This simple little excerpt from Little Women, is one of the sweet stories that I read when I was younger that placed seeds of generosity in my heart, that I am still learning to sprout.
This was a children’s book, but it has big lessons, hard lessons for us as adults. It is better to give than receive, would probably be the bottom line message. Here the March girls, once used to much better circumstances, with a Father away at war, and their daily life much disrupted, choose to look beyond there own wants and desires, and give their own breakfast away to a much more needy family. In the end, they were much happier than if they had stomachs full of their Christmas treats. A simple little story, but one that is hard to imitate.
While it’s easy to say that I agree with this moral, it’s not always so easy to let my actions show that agreement. I may agree in mind, but my actions don’t always line up. Like the March girls, my family is in a much harder position to give right now. My husband is going to school, economy is going downhill, food prices are rising. Now, more then ever, it would be easy to try to save all those extra pennies.
But now, more than ever, others need our help. While we may be feeling the squeeze, the less fortunate are starving.
I am excited about the different ways that my family can choose to give and I am excited about how this blog can encourage others to do the same. But I would love to hear from you.
So, this is my question for you (as part of Backwards WFMW), how do you make it possible to give, even when it’s a sacrifice?
I would love to hear your thoughts. What have you done in the past, what are you currently doing? What would you like to do? How can we cultivate generosity in our lives?
Related Links on this site:
Eating Nourishing Food on a Budget and Feeding the Hungry
Lessons from Rome: What does our Table Reveal about us?
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Here is just a couple of things that have worked for me:
1. My husband budgets everything and I was wishing there was more giving budgeted in so I asked him, “If I can get our food bill down under budget (we were at $325 a month for our family of 6), can we give the rest away?” He agreed to that and I have worked extra hard to make economical meals, search around for good deals, grow our own stuff, etc. and most months we have only been spending around $200. That has been very exciting for me. It requires more work on my part but it is worth it.
2. We like most Americans that I know have way more stuff than we need! I truly don’t shop a lot (in fact in the last year and a half I have bought one item of clothes for the kids and I) but we have been given much. That said I recently was put in contact with a lady that was in a battered women’s shelter and was going to get an appartment for herself and her child but only had clothes. My mom and I both went through our homes and were able to find a lot of stuff (extra kitchen stuff, bedding and towels) that we didn’t truly need that we could share with her.
3. We love to give gifts but our gift budget is not that large. I have worked very hard (and I look around on other blogs frequently to get ideas) to figure out creative gifts that we can make or put together very inexpensively. We have had a wonderful time doing it too!
What a great post and something I’ve been thinking and writing about alot lately as well. I’m trying hard to make sure all those lessons about frugality, gardening, cooking, etc. are shared so that not only can I give but I can also empower folks. At least, thats what I hope I do.
Mrs. Amy Brigham
I think sometimes our time and skills can be more valuable than money. Mowing the lawn of an elderly neighbor, listening to someone who needs a shoulder to cry on, teaching a low income mama how to make nourishing food on a really tight budget, and so on. Peapod & I volunteer at the local food bank on two days a week and help hand out sandwiches and bibles to homeless people downtown every weekend. Neither of these take a good deal of money, but still can be a great blessing to others. :o)
As far as helping monetarily goes, we pay God first, with a tithe that goes to a charity that helps the poor. We also have a little change jar set up, in which all the change goes and can the be used ti purchase bus passes & grocery gift cards to have on hand when they might be needed. These are especially nice as they can be given anonymously to preserve the dignity of the recipient. I shared a few more of my ideas on this topic last year, if you might be interested in reading: http://inclotheslinealley.blogspot.com/2007/09/offering-helping-hand.html
My husband & I feel it very important to give whenever a strange opportunity to do so comes about it, even if it might not seem like we can. I shared on my blog several months ago about one particularly strange weekend in which we were approached by a teenager on Friday night. He had ran out of gas and needed gas money. We could tell he was telling the truth, so my husband gave him the last bit of cash he had on him.
The very next day, we were returning from the farmers mkt when we noticed a homeless man on the side of the road with a sign. We only had a few bits if change on us, but gave it anyway. We were headed to the co-op where they have readymade sandwiches, so we picked one up, plus chips & water to give to him should we see him on the way back. We did wind up seeing him and he was very thankful for our girl, telling us we made him feel like a person. I cried when we pulled away because, truly, it is very easy to forget the humanity of the homeless and others who have fallen on hard times. A few dollars, a sandwich, or even a simple "hi" can go a long way in encouraging somebody, that is for sure.
When something’s on sale, I buy more than one, then donate the extra: example: we just started the “adopt a soldier” program, and they desperately need toiletries, so when toothpaste was 10/$10 at Kroger, I bought an extra to send to our soldier.
Also, a lot of places simply need time – man hours. And if you don’t have money, you can give time.
lisa (lost pezhead)
i think it’s in the little things…like if i’m at the parking garage and paying, i can tell the person to keep the .50 change…imagine if everyone did that…that’s a lot of tips for someone in a day.
at church when i fill out our tithing each month, i round up and give the extra money for education or humanitarian help….optional donation spots on the tithing form. it may not seem like giving $2 is a lot…but if you do it each week it adds up at the end of a year.
i like the suggestion of using your time and talents too, not just money. our library has a program where you drive books to shut in elderly people, it’s an easy thing to do each week and even take the kids along. you could do a service project once a month as a family or find another person or family who might need help with something that you are talented in.
This post was rather fun to read today because my little family listened to Focus on the Family’s Radio Theater version of Little Women as we drove to a family reunion over the weekend. We love the March family.
I suppose the most effective thing I have done to share with others while still trying to make ends meet is this: Trust in a holy God to meet all our needs.
I know it sounds so simplistic, but it works and at the same time spreads grace to those around you.
I grew up in a low-income family, but we always were willing to put on an extra plate(s) for a guest(s). I learned early that there is no substitution for trust, no excuse for not sharing what we have, though it was never much.
He owns the cattle on a thousand hills.
When baking bread, I find recipes that make several, and I periodically give one to a neighbor and/or half a loaf to a widow at church.
I do leftovers the same way!
We do set aside tithe and give what we can (offering), little though it may be sometimes. We love to give to a church up north that is very well known for soul-winning. That is very important to us.
My kids have a jar that they toss in change/offering and tithe when it may only be .10 cents. We collect and give wherever seems fitting.
We also have a little box that we have collected in, until we had enough to buy several books of stamps. I then ordered Spanish tracks (that were free)and our ‘homeschool lesson’ was to (prayerfully) look up Spanish names in the phone book and address/mail them to the addy listed. My kids were very creative in ways to get $$ for the bucket, including picking up ANY change that they found in town and having yard sales between themselves! (They even asked for donations from family members, lol.)
My DH also made payments on a needed appliance for a home once.
Both of us are givers, which makes tight times very tough on us.
But God knows and sees. Remember the widow’s mite!?!?
Since I am still in school, I do not have a lot of extra money to give away. In the past I have volunteered at local animal shelters. Giving your time and affection to animals without homes is very rewarding. I donated blood for the first time this week and I plan on making it a habit. Last week I went into a business and told the secretary about someone’s car lights being on. Donate and buy things from Goodwill! I have also given someone gas money, but they were actually just a con artist. If someone asks, go buy the gas for them, don’t just give money.
We set aside some in our budget for giving; that way, we will have *something* to give 🙂
It was a treat to read your post. I just reread Little Women last spring, and I very much enjoyed the many lessons within the text. Thanks for reminding us to give generously and joyfully, even when times are tough. That’s love!