We tiptoed up the steps, onto the porch, and gently laid down the goodies: canned vegetables, a frozen turkey and various foods all packaged in a laundry basket. Another "secret basket" contained presents.
My 6-year-old son, Ryan, whispered, "Mommy, do you think they'll like the presents?"
"Of course they will," I whispered back.
The wooden steps creaked when we descended and ran back to the car.
Breathless and giddy, my son asked, "Do you think they'll know we did it?"
"I hope not, because Matthew 6 says, 'When you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right is doing, so that your giving may be in secret.' "
Never underestimate the value of modeling selfless giving. Providing opportunities for your children to see you give to others will help them to get excited about generosity. Kids of all ages can learn to give anonymously, but don't expect them to be involved beyond what they're capable of developmentally. Secret baskets are a great place to start. Set your sights on someone with a financial, physical, emotional or spiritual need, and anonymously gift them useful items with a note of encouragement attached.
Here are more ideas for encouraging generosity in your kids, whatever their age:
Preschool children can learn to give within the confines of family. Teach them to sneak a yummy food treat onto the plate of a loved one. Help them hide a piece of wrapped candy in someone's lunchbox. "Shhh, don't tell" is something they will understand. As they do secretive things that make others happy, they will soon discover that sharing is fun.
Let your child help you shop for items and package them with prayers and Scriptures tucked inside. Ask local hospitals or nursing homes to distribute them anonymously to those who are sick and lonely.
Make handcrafted cards with your tween. Mail them without revealing the sender's identity. A hopeful message lifts the spirits of someone who needs to hear God cares.
You can also encourage your tween to leave unsigned gratitude notes on restaurant tables and store counters. Is there a greater gift than to tell someone that his or her hard work is noticed?
Teens have youthful energy to invest. When an elderly or sick neighbor runs errands or goes to the doctor, ask your teenager to mow the neighbor's lawn, shovel snow or wash his windows. An anonymous message of God's love, tucked behind the neighbor's screen door, will brighten the day for both the giver and recipient.
As teens begin to earn their own money, they can spread joy by secretly giving small gifts to strangers. Suggest that your teen purchase a movie ticket for the third person back or leave a dollar with the store clerk, toward the water, soda or coffee of the next customer who comes in.
Secret gifts teach children to help those in need. Any occasion is a good time to surprise someone with the love of Jesus Christ.