COLUMN: Better to give than to receive

Tommy Fairweather, Teachable Moments

Most of my articles are designed to help parents develop their child’s intellect. But you don’t want your child to end up like Sheldon on The Big Bang Theory.

Sheldon is extremely smart but has no common sense and does not have empathy for others. Your child needs help to develop emotionally and socially.

My parents always said to me, “It is better to give than to receive.” I really disagreed with that concept because I loved the presents I got for birthdays and Christmas. It took many “teaching” actions by my parents to get me to realize what they meant.

One of the first times I experienced the joy of giving was when I was 8 years old. I had sold a good many Girl Scout cookies and our troop got 5 cents for each box.

It was a considerable amount to spend. The leader, my mother, gave us several choices. Most of the choices would provide fun for the girls in the troop. One idea was different. It was for us to spend the money to buy dolls, and cloth to make clothes for the dolls. She would teach us to sew the clothes and we would give the dolls to Toys for Tots. Fortunately, we chose that option and we toiled away making the clothes. We wrapped them nicely and gave them to children we would never know. I began to think, “giving is better than receiving.” Of course, a side benefit was that we learned to sew doll clothes for our own dolls.

My mother also demonstrated that giving meant more than just giving money. It meant to give of time and of yourself. Many times I helped her make meals for families that needed a meal because of death or illness. She also required that I visit an elderly widow on a regular basis. Like setting the habit of brushing my teeth, the visit to this elderly widow became a habit and continued until I went to college. Even during my busy high school years, I learned to set apart time to visit Mrs. Pease and came to enjoy the visits myself.

These true stories are meant to demonstrate the power of parenting. As parents and grandparents, you need not look far locally to see how to teach your child, “It is better to give than to receive.” Your child can give some of the money they have earned to local nonprofits such as E.O. Wilson Biophilia Center, The Emerald Coast Wildlife Refuge or Seacrest Wolf Preserve in Chipley. Or, you can have them donate to a nonprofit in an area of their interest, like art or music. A high-school friend of mine has started an art nonprofit organization, There are tons of sites available online. They can purchase toys for less fortunate children. Or, they can purchase food to stock pantries such as Caring & Sharing of Walton and Okaloosa counties, or for Hannah House.

You can also show that giving time is important too. Several churches feed the less fortunate: Christ the King in Walton County offers Cooper’s Kitchen on Tuesday evenings, and St. Andrew’s Church in Destin offers lunch to the homeless on Mondays. Or as a family, you can visit nursing homes or shut-in neighbors. I also know of a local high school that holds fundraisers to earn money to provide needy students with holiday gifts and food for the holidays.

Remember the sayings, “You are what you eat” and “You are what you read.” Well, your children become what you teach them. Our world needs you to teach them that “it is better to give than receive.”

Tommy Fairweather is a retired Walton County teacher who lives in Destin and works at Smarts & Arts on Airport Road in Destin.