Making a Habit Of Generosity

By Michelle Singletary
Sunday, September 18, 2005

I knew that on the first Sunday after Hurricane Katrina blasted the Gulf Coast, my pastor would appeal to his congregation to give to the relief effort.

"I know I don't have to beg you," said John K. Jenkins of First Baptist Church of Glenarden. "You give generously because you are a giving church."

It's so wonderful to see that when a disaster hits, people do give generously. My daughter Olivia was about to donate half her allowance that Sunday. "Mommy, do you think that's enough?" she asked during the special offering.

Before I had a chance to answer, Olivia had decided to give more.

The news is full of stories of young people who have collected money, food, clothing and other supplies for the victims of Katrina. Adults have opened their wallets, homes and stores to help the many who have been left with nothing.

But the challenge for all of us -- adults and children -- is to keep that spirit of giving all the time, not just when there is a hurricane, earthquake or tsunami.

Because people here and abroad need our assistance year-round, I'm recommending for September two books for the Color of Money Book Club.

The first is "The Giving Book" by Ellen Sabin (Watering Can Press, $19.95).

The second is PricewaterhouseCoopers' "Guide to Charitable Giving" by Michael B. Kennedy, Evelyn M. Capassakis and Richard S. Wagman (John Wiley & Sons, $19.95).

Let me focus first on Sabin's book. This 64-page, spiral-bound volume is full of fun activities intended to teach children ages 6 to 11 the importance of philanthropy. It is also partly a journal, and children are encouraged to write essays that get them to answer such questions as what they are thankful for or how they would help people in certain situations.

Most important, the activities in the book aren't just centered on one act of charity. While it's commendable that so many people are helping Katrina victims, it's better if that generosity becomes ingrained.

"Disasters and events lead many of us to take notice and enhance our giving," said Sabin, who has spent her career working for and running nonprofit organizations in the public health sector. "This proactive giving can then ebb and flow based on events and media coverage."

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