Nine Steps on the Giving Ladder You Can Share with Your Children

by | Dec 13, 2022

Peeping through a keyhole on Christmas morning, I could see the packages and toys Santa had brought. All under the age of ten, all four of us grandchildren took turns looking through that keyhole while my grandmother took her sweet time cooking breakfast.

My sweet grandmother had a six-year-old granddaughter with a “can’t you hurry it up” attitude, anxious to get to the new Raggedy Ann perched up high on top of many other gifts from Santa and family. I remember thinking I might need a ladder to reach her.

Ladders come in handy this time of year, from stringing lights to decorating the tree. But, before we pile into the packages under the tree, let’s take a few minutes to think about a different kind of ladder developed by the twelfth-century Jewish scholar and physician Maimonides, “Eight Rungs of the Giving Ladder.”

I know I said there were nine steps, so stay tuned for my favorite step on the ladder.

Each step of Maimonides’ ladder describes a type of giver. In a recent YP Journal blog, I described his third and second steps from the top –the anonymous donor. Keep reading to check out all eight rungs plus the ninth rung I added to the ladder.

Where Are You on the 8 Rungs of the Ladder?

Bottom Step:  Those of us who give grudgingly, perhaps out of obligation.

Seventh Step: Those of us who give less than we should, but we do it cheerfully.

Sixth Step: We give directly to someone in need when asked.

Fifth Step: We give directly to someone in need before anything is asked of us.

Fourth Step: The recipient of our gift is aware we’re the donor, but we don’t know who the recipient is. Example – we give to a particular cause, the recipients learn who the donors are, but we never know who received our donation.

Third Step from the Top: We know the recipients, but they don’t know us, one version of an anonymous gift.

Almost to the Top: Neither the recipient nor we know each other, another kind of anonymous gift.

Top Rung: The highest level of giving money, a loan, your time or whatever else it takes to enable an individual to be self-reliant. We give with a cheerful heart, allowing the recipient their dignity.

Being on the ladder is more important than which rung. Each rung is a step of the heart.

The Ninth Rung on My Ladder

 I would have added one for those who make time to model giving for children and grandchildren. On this rung, the next generations would learn about our giving and perhaps share in giving experiences and lessons learned for future generations.

If you have family around this holiday season, I hope you’ll spend time on this last rung for at least one teachable moment. Share your own giving story or the gift of giving as a family. Giving sticks by doing it year after year. Shared giving sticks when you share it year after year.

A Family Exercise in Shared Giving

  1. Everyone brings $25 or $50 (per family) to the family gathering to put in the Giving Bowl. (The suggested amount should be right for your family.)
  2. Encourage each family member to participate, as all donations to the money bowl count – even pennies from the smallest hands.
  3. Provide paper and pens beside a second bowl and ask every family member to write their favorite charity.
  4. Help younger family members think of someone or something they want to help. For example, they might draw a picture or cut something from a magazine.
  5. Ask young readers and those barely reading to make a list of all the suggestions in the “bowl of charities.”
  6. Gather everyone together and let the young list makers read the entire list aloud.
  7. Be courageous, and let the young list makers select the charity from the list.

Make it fun, and repeat it next year. That creates traditions that become stories. Stories are the sticky stuff – the glue – that sticks one generation to the next.

If your family is far away, invite friends to share in a giving experience.

Start a giving tradition you can repeat every year. Start with whatever family and friends are around and just keep repeating.

How do you share giving? Tell us your story.

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