January 31, 2010

Teaching Children To Give Back

My children and I have an ongoing discussion about what our jobs are. I tell them that their job is to to go to spend each day learning as much as they can about everything. My job is to help them figure out what is most important and what isn't.

Occasionally we have discussions about the contradictory nature of being told to learn everything while simultaneously being told that not everything is important. I suppose that one could argue that some of this is a bit too sophisticated for them, but that is ok. We aim high so that if we don't hit the mark we still end up ahead of the game.

Anyway, this week we got to celebrate Tu B'Shevat, sort of a Jewish arbor day. It is a great teaching holiday because it offers numerous teaching opportunities. It also has a very cool story that is tied into it about a guy called Honi, the circle maker. I know a bunch of stories about him, but there is one in particular that I really like. I found a version of of it online that I'll share:

One day, Honi the Circle Maker was walking on the road and saw a man planting a carob tree. Honi asked the man, "How long will it take for this tree to bear fruit?"

The man replied, "Seventy years."

Honi then asked the man, "And do you think you will live another seventy years and eat the fruit of this tree?"

The man answered, "Perhaps not. However, when I was born into this world, I found many carob trees planted by my father and grandfather. Just as they planted trees for me, I am planting trees for my children and grandchildren so they will be able to eat the fruit of these trees."
It is a very practical story that I have often used in business settings. Since it is not cloaked in religious trappings it provides an easy opening into discussing a number of things:

1) Planning for the future.
2) Doing something to help others.

Since I like tying these discussions into action we made a point of planting flowers and a small vegetable garden. I mulled over including a fruit tree but decided to hold off. We have a bunch of fruit trees in the backyard already and I thought it might be nice to do something a bit different.

Besides the flowers and the vegetables will yield results a bit faster than a tree would and that is very useful with young and impatient children.

Now the kids have this idea that we can take our vegetables to sell at one of the local farmer's markets. They were so excited by the idea that I didn't have the heart to tell them why that is unlikely to happen any time soon.

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