Today I have a lot of questions about some of the assumptions our teachers made about why those children in Africa had need of our charity. But I value the lessons I learned at that tender age: that sharing my wealth with others feels good, and that small sacrifices can be strengthening, and can change lives.
By the time I had more resources, I had developed the ineffective and decidedly unspiritual habits of ignoring money, purchasing without planning, making insignificant contributions to my Quaker meeting, and making semi-regular charitable contributions to non-Quaker groups doing work I admired. In spite of the fact that I had purchased a home and had a bank account, I had no will, and therefore had arranged no bequests. Charitable giving was not a regular part of my thinking, my budget, or my life.
One of the things I do in my Quaker meeting is teach First Day School (our equivalentn of Sunday School). I work with the four to six year olds. One day we were engaged in a simple math game using tiny bunny cookies. They had played this game before and loved it. When they finished the simple calculation, I would allow them to eat the cookies. The trouble was that on this day there was a larger than normal group, and we had to use a small number of cookies so that they could do the calculation. There were not enough cookies to go around. So I asked, “How should we solve this problem?” One of the children, Jacob, immediately, without pause and without being asked, snapped his cookie in two and gave it to young Willow. I asked Willow how it felt when Jacob shared his cookie with her? “Like he wants me to be his best friend!” she said with a big grin. “And, Jacob, how did it feel to you to share your cookie with Willow?” And, rather matter-of-factly, he said, “Like I’m a nice person.”
I want to nurture that in myself, that connection to Goodness. So I'm going to check my budget and work toward giving away at least 10%, saving half of the rest (since I am old with not much time left to work, and may live to be much older), and learning to live on the remainder. I may not be successful, but I will try. I want to come to the end of my life knowing deeply what it feels like to share my cookies.