Teaching the Virtues: Charity
It Begins at Home
By Mary Dixon Lebeau
For Jayci Nakakura’s third birthday, the little girl received teddy bears….lots and lots of teddy bears.
This was one time when the birthday girl and her parents weren’t concerned about the duplicate gifts. In fact, they had encouraged the young party guests to bring a teddy bear instead of a gift. After the candles were blown out on Jayci’s cake and the guests had gone, she and her family donated the bears to Kids Haven, a local charity which distributes stuffed animals to children affected by abuse.
“Since my girls were two years old, we have taught them to be givers,” says Shari Nakakura, mother of Jayci, now 9, and Tiara, 7. “For their birthday parties, instead of having the guests bring gifts for them, the girls would pick a charity so the guests could bring a gift appropriate to donate to others.” One year, it was the teddy bears. In other years, partygoers brought storybooks to donate to the children of New Orleans affected by Hurricane Katrina or school supplies for kids in need in the local school system.
As they grew older, the girls’ choices became more introspective. This year, Jayci asked guests to bring loose change. She collected $140, which she donated to Sonlight’s Project Ricebag, which supports a literacy program for women in India. Tiara also decided to give back this year. She had her friends bring over baby clothes, which were then donated to the Social Welfare Institute in China, where Tiara had spent the first two years of her life.
“This isn’t to say that the kids don’t get gifts from their friends on their birthdays,” Nakakura laughs. “But our culture teaches our kids to desire stuff, stuff, and more stuff,” she continues. “It’s only through a grateful heart that we teach our kids charity. And it has to start at a young age when they can see their parents in action as givers.”