Herald Journal Columns
Jan. 23, 2006, Herald Journal

Generosity: a habit of the heart


I know we hear recommendations on giving during the holidays, as well as involving our children in the acts of volunteering and generosity, but we all know that generosity is something that needs to become a habit. As it was stated on the website www.7upcom/Families Plus, “Generosity is a habit of the heart, a stretching of the spirit,” and this takes practice and training.

The website offered some ways to cultivate this generosity in our family lives the whole year round that I thought were somewhat different than ones I’ve heard before. And it never hurts to repeat important issues because it helps us bring those thoughts to the forefront.

• Designate a family piggy bank or “change jar” to use for those extra coins that may collect about. At the end of the month, see how much money has been collected and donate it to a local organization or charity fund, such as the United Way or the local food shelf. Local food shelves welcome cash donations to purchase needed supplies.

• Include children in simple volunteer activities such as organizing a neighborhood trash clean-up, or assisting an elderly friend or family member with yard or house work. Do family volunteer activities together.

• Have family members routinely go through closets and shelves for clothes, books, and toys to be shared and given to those who are less fortunate, making sure the items are of good quality.

• Engage children in dinnertime talk about charitable organizations seeking help and support, and possibly encourage children to contribute some of their own allowance or other money to add to your family’s contribution.

• Practice costly giving to teach that sacrifice is part of meaningful sharing. Decide together to forgo the usual Friday night pizza or the trip to buy ice cream treats in order to give more money to the hurricane relief or other need.

• Be generous with each other. Offer homework help, an undistracted ear, and give positive feedback when your children offer help to you, as well.

A winter poem to warm the heart

Over the holiday break, our family made a trip to the Children’s Museum in St. Paul, which is one of my children’s favorite places to go, offering fun activities for children of all ages.

Currently, one of the rooms has a winter theme and there are a variety of winter activities to try out and explore. There is also some winter poetry adorning the winter scenes for all to enjoy, so I thought I would share one such poem with you, titled “Snowball Wind,” by Aileen Fisher.

“The wind was throwing snowballs.

It plucked them from the trees,

And tossed them all around the woods

As boldly as you please.

“I ducked beneath the spruces

Which didn’t help a speck.

The wind kept throwing snowballs

And threw one down my neck.”

The snowman game

Here’s a fun game to play outside using an old sheet, clothespins, snowballs, and of course, kids and adults.

Cut three holes in an old sheet in the shape of a snowman and use clothespins to hang the sheet outside on a clothes line or rope hung between two trees. Throw snowballs through the holes. You could make the small top hole worth 10 points, the middle hole worth five points and the bottom hole worth one point, for example.

A visit to the Lowry Nature Center

Our family recently went to the Lowry Nature Center in Victoria to go sledding on its hill. It’s cheap (free) entertainment and lots of fun, too.

The hills are steep enough for everyone to have fun on, but not too steep for a toddler to go safely down with an adult (and to travel back up again, riding on your sled). My 22-month-old enjoyed it, along with my other two children, my husband, and myself.

The nature center also offers many other activities inside and out, including bird watching (yes, during the winter months, too), snowshoeing, kicksledding, and building snow huts and snow castles.

The center is hosting its Polar Bear Picnic Saturday, Jan. 28, in which participants can snowshoe, kicksled, build a quinzhee, and play mini-golf on the ice, as well as participating in indoor activities. Sounds like a fun winter day. To find out about more activities, to register for the Polar Bear Picnic, or get more information on it, call (763) 694-7650.

Visit a library

Take a trip to a local library to read some winter books together. What a great way to spend some time together on a cold winter day.

We have some great public libraries in our communities; take advantage of their resources. The city of Waconia has a new public library full of lots of literature and fun children’s books, as well as a fun children’s area to enjoy a book together.


“When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant, I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much he had learned in seven years.”

– Mark Twain