I’ve shared this story before, but the message remains important to the heart of giving. Take a moment to learn why ladders matter on Christmas morning and all year round.
At six years old, I was sure I needed one, and today, I’m as committed as ever to working my way through this giving ladder.
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 an old-fashioned keyhole big enough to see most of the Christmas tree but not quite all of it. While we took turns looking, 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.”
Yes, I said there were nine rungs. Stay tuned for my favorite step on the ladder. Each step of Maimonides’ ladder describes a type of giver. Here are his eight rungs plus the ninth rung I added to 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.
For example, when we give to a particular cause, the recipients learn who the donors are, but as donors, 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 anonymous gifts.
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.
I think Maimonides is missing a rung on his ladder. I would add one for those who make time to model giving for children and grandchildren. On my ninth rung, the next generations would learn about our giving stories and perhaps share in giving experiences and lessons.
The ladder is all about sharing and modeling giving for future generations. Being on it is more important than which rung. Each rung is a step of the heart.
If you have family around this holiday season, spend time on the ninth rung for at least one teachable moment. Share your 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.
To learn about a giving exercise you can share with family members, check out my idea at the Your Philanthropy website, Nine Steps on the Giving Ladder You Can Share with Your Children.
Find a way to encourage giving with your children and grandchildren. Make it fun and repeat it next year. it 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 tradition you can repeat every year. Start with whatever family and friends are around and just keep repeating.
Because sharing your stories is so important, I wrote The Gift of Giving, which is also available on the Your-Philanthropy website. Learn why your giving stories are so important and how to share them with family and others you care about.
What’s your favorite holiday-giving story?
Like it. Use it. Share it. Comment Below.
The Gift of Giving, by Dawn Franks
is now available at www.TheGiftofGiving.net