Did you ever feel like you learned some of your most profound lessons when you’re little? So did I.
In the village I grew up in, every now and then a pedlar would come by. One sweltering afternoon, a heavily pregnant lady appeared, a bundle of goods perched precariously on top of her head. I watched as she trudged into the family compound; a weary look on her face. I knew what my mom’s words would be even before she uttered them: “Get her a glass of water.” Mom placed some biscuits on the tray next to the pitcher of water. A look of relief washed over the lady’s face as she helped herself to the water and snack. My mom didn’t buy anything from the lady, but that didn’t stop her from reaching out to her and being kind. Our family wasn’t rich, yet my parents taught me there was always something we could do for someone. Consistently.
Keep a lookout and you’ll see the chance to be charitable presenting itself. I have seen a young mother at a mosque handing her 3-year-old daughter some money, asking her to drop it into the donation box. The woman could have done it herself, but she knew getting her very young child to do it was a more meaningful lesson for her. This is how we raise conscious, caring children. Deliberately. It doesn’t happen by accident.
Talking about money, I don’t know the Eid custom where you live, but where I live, children typically get a packet containing some amount of money whenever they visit the elders. It’s called duit raya (Eid money). Here’s what you could do to encourage the spirit of giving in your young child with his or her Eid money.
Before Eid ends, help your child check how much Eid money they have collected. Show them your wallet, and let them see you take out some money. Tell your child the money you took is for sadaqah (charity). Then, ask your child to take any amount from the Eid money they have to donate to charity. How much your child wants to give is secondary to their willingness and eagerness to give. It’s the spirit that counts.
But really, it doesn’t have to be money. When the Covid-19 epidemic is over, perhaps you could plan to visit an old folks’ home or a shelter home for underprivileged children, bring some gifts or refreshments, plan a simple activity, so you could cheer these people up. It sure takes a bit of planning and organising, but believe me, it’s worth the effort. You could invite your friends and their families to join as well. The people you choose to visit don’t have to be Muslim. After all, aren’t Muslims supposed to be gentle, generous and kind to Muslims and non-Muslims alike?
Why must we teach children to be charitable? Teaching charity to kids is an introduction to the concept of Zakat, the third pillar of Islam. Zakat is about redistributing wealth. A portion of what we own or earn belongs to others. No doubt we work hard for it, but sustenance comes from Allah. Being charitable is not just about creating empathy in children. It’s actually about TRUST, ACCOUNTABILITY and RESPONSIBILITY. Everything we got is a trust upon us to spend in the best way possible. We are accountable and responsible for everything we have earned. Not just to ourselves but to others, too. Children need to grasp this concept early on.