Last Saturday while I went to the grocery store, my husband and the boys went shopping for my Mother’s Day gifts. I’m incredibly blessed to have been given such wonderful sons. They are talented and beautiful in surprisingly unique ways. I look forward to seeing the men they will grow up to be. I want them to be empowered to carve out their own space in life without worrying much about my expectations. But I pray that they will grow up to embrace a passion for service and here are the reasons why.
- I want them to find themselves earlier than I found myself. I know that their minds will be bombarded with thoughts and questions centered around who they are and who they want to be. I want them to have the tools to discover key elements of their character. A deliberate focus on service develops discipline, patience and a concept of honor much faster and easier than the world will.
- I want them to get over themselves. I know that they will snap a thousand “selfies” or whatever form of self-expression is popular in the days to come. But I want them to know that they are not the center of the universe. I want them to feel significant enough to lend a helping hand, but humble enough to seek help when they need it. I want them to have a balanced view of themselves. So they can appreciate their strengths, but also accept and forgive their imperfections. They will need to make peace with their self-image if they hope to have the compassion and empathy to serve.
- I want them to love hard. I want them to be prepared for the work love requires. I want them to be prepared to serve those they love. And I also want them to require that those who claim to love them show their love by serving and respecting them. This will help them not waste time on people unworthy of their vulnerability. Love in all its forms (friendship, family and romantic) requires great commitment and effort. I want them to expect love and serving one another to go hand and hand.
- I want them to know where they can find happiness. I know that they will look to new jobs for happiness. I know that they will look to money for happiness. I know that they will look to parties and friends and women and alcohol (and hopefully NOT drugs) for happiness. I want them to have the insight to measure their lives by love and service and not just superficial signs of success. I want them to know God’s magical formula that gratitude plus service equals happiness.
- I want them to know how to quiet the voices in their heads. I know their internal voices will talk ceaselessly about their own needs, about their pain, their failures and their struggles. I want them to have ways to quiet those voices. I want them to have the tools to connect to God. I want them to know that prayer and service will quench their thirst for validation.
- I want them to be resilient. I want them to embrace life as a magnificent learning experience. I want them to accept that struggle, grief and loss will be some of the best teachers in their lives. I want them to submit to viewing hardships as character refining lessons. I want them to see through service that tough times are universal and that faith, time and love can heal all wounds. I want them to know how to bounce back.
What are some of the things you want for the children in your life?
About a week ago, we had an opportunity to talk with college-bound teenagers about money. We had their full attention once they saw the charts of average starting salaries for different fields of study. Clearly graduates from some fields (mostly in the hard sciences and technical disciplines) made much more money than others. Some fields required additional graduate degrees and that meant a potential for larger student loan debt.
We still encouraged the students to follow their talents and passions. We talked to them about how passion would play out in the long run which was loosely defined as 10-15 years into their career. It’s passion that drives people to work harder, smarter and network better. Then those passionate people get promoted, make more money and far outpace their peers financially. Passion is still an important factor for long term financial success.
Honest Conversations About Money
So why even give them the starting salary data if we still think they should consider any field they like? The point was to have an honest conversation about money. It was to help them make an informed decision about which field to pursue. It’s a complex decision. We also discussed the social and emotional impact of making more or less money than their peers at any stage of life. We acknowledged that some jobs would always pay less than others even if they’re successful at them. This talk was to help them make decisions about their life and the role money will play in it. Deciding how important each factor is to them is something they will have to do on their own.
Even as adults we are often left uninformed about the social and emotional factors surrounding money. When I was single, it was hard to make decisions and place priorities on my money. Should I save more for a rainy day or take a trip with my family? When I got married again it became even more clear that I needed to learn and communicate my financial needs better. I say “needs” and not “wants” because how much we derive pleasure, connection and/or security from money is core to who we are. These factors aren’t simple preferences that can be ignored. This is something you may already know if you’ve ever managed money with someone that doesn’t share your financial values.
Luckily, there are resources to help us get informed about our financial preferences and have more honest conversations about money with each other. The link below will take you to an online tool that will “find your money mind” and uncover your personal biases about money’s value. A friend suggested this site to me and I wanted to pass it on.
Three Types of “Money Minds”
- Happiness: The Pleasure Seeker
- Committed: The Giver
- Fear: The Protector
Once you take the quiz for yourself you can also take it with someone you manage money with. This will give you insight into your collective priorities and styles. You will also get communication tips to have better and more honest conversations about your needs.
So what does this have to do with service? Everything. Money has a huge impact on our relationships and resources. Our relationships and resources will have everything to do with how and who we serve.
Who else wants to have an honest conversation about money?
I don’t remember that much about being a teenager. I know it had its “ups and downs”, but I made it out alive. Yesterday, I held a workshop for a room full of high school students (9th-12th grade). Initially, I wasn’t sure how the day would go. I worried that focusing on the topic of service with teenagers would fail to hold their interest. I was definitely wrong. The last activity of the day asked the students to break into four groups and prepare a presentation on their top 10 ways the adults in their lives could serve them better. We received 40 answers, but there was plenty of overlap in what they wanted. Below you’ll find the consolidated list.
- T.L.C. This is also known as Tender, Loving, Care. They acknowledged that they would not show affection back, but they still wanted it.
- To be a priority. This was said in many different ways from “don’t forget about us” to “remember what time you said you’d pick me up”.
- One day off. Defined as 24 hours to do whatever they wanted without any obligations.
- Teach them about finances. They wanted help understanding how to navigate the financial world. This included help figuring out strategies to buy the things they wanted.
- “Real life” skills training. They thought the school curriculum should teach more skills that would apply to their home and work life.
- Freedom to explore their sexuality. They didn’t want to elaborate on this one, but it was on the list.
- One free mistake. They wanted to be able to make one reasonably small mistake without getting in trouble.
- Teachers being more predictable. They had a hard time guessing when some teachers would be in a bad mood.
- Room to fail. They wanted to be able to take some risks and learn on their own.
- Lowering the cost of college application fees.
- Considering their opinion. They acknowledged that they have limited life experience, but they still wanted their parents to place some value on their thoughts.
- Exposure to more diversity. They wanted to travel and meet people from other countries.
- Shadow an adult in the work environment.
- Let them choose their own college. They still wanted the parents’ guidance, but wanted to make the final decision.
- Feel permanently supported. They needed to know their parents support would never go away, even if they made mistakes.
- To be checked on when they are sad.
- More privacy. This one wasn’t a surprise to me.
- Help talking through social problems at school.
- Discuss their preferences for attendance and/or behavior at their extracurricular events. The group was not in agreement on whether they wanted their parents at their sporting events or other activities. Many felt parents were overly critical in their attempts to help them perform better. Some were embarrassed by excessive cheering. Some just loved having the support and the immediate ride home. The room was definitely divided.
ANY SURPRISES TO YOU? Most surprised me.
The comment floor is open below. Serve on!