One cold day this past fall, I bundled up and headed out for a run. I made a minor detour to greet my daughter who was playing with a friend. "Mommy?"she asked, "can I have your gloves--I'm cold." Without hesitation, I put them on her, then planted kisses on her cheeks to keep her until I returned.
I missed my gloves. I have always detested being cold. But now I fear it. Something changed in the course of having two kids and a crazy career. I got thinner or nervier or tweaked something that made cold temperatures searing to my fingers and toes. So I wasn't just a bit chillier without my gloves. On a day that was still well above freezing, I might as well have had frostbite.
Then I thought about something I learned recently from a former trustee at my institution about gifts. He was speaking specifically about fundraising, but could have been talking about any kind of giving. He said that in order to ask anyone else to give (to a cause or institution or campaign), the person making the request needs to have given also. If you approach someone to give a "stretch" gift -- a substantial sacrifice of their resources--you had better be able to tell them that you have already made yours. Otherwise you have no business asking.
It's a great point about effective fundraising. I considered as I ran how applicable it is to parenting. I need to make stretch gifts everyday to my children in order to teach them about trust and generosity and faith and love. I have very high expectations for them. Every day they put such effort into pleasing me with good manners and loving gestures, with patience and determination. Toys get cleaned up. Violins are practiced. In a perfect world, we adults would have lovely no-stress lives in which to notice and applaud these gifts from our children. It's not perfect. There's no even system of give and take. So, in the rushed, tired state in which I live, I resort to little gifts and "stretch" gifts: kisses and gloves.
So far I am seeing regular dividends. Karma at work.