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Giving some of what you have to those less fortunate is one way to think about charity. But what if you don’t have anything? Does that mean you can’t be charitable? Of course not. A beautiful example of that from Marvin Abrinica.
When Marvin was growing up in Cleveland, Ohio, his family wasn’t the wealthiest among his friends. But he does remember his mother, Noemi, being very generous to others with one particular thing: food. She threw amazing holiday parties for the other Filipino families nearby. She helped them celebrate with egg rolls and Filipino noodles and other traditional dishes. “And she would always make more than anyone could possibly eat. So inevitably, my mom would package these take-home plates. So everyone left with even more food.”
He remembers asking her, “Mom, why do you cook all this food? It seems like such a waste.
And in response, Noemi Abrinica told him this story.
When she was a little girl growing up in Manila, her family was very poor. But her parents made sure that every day she was fed well when she left for school. Not every child in her school, however, was as fortunate. The whole country was still recovering from World War II, and poverty was widespread. “There was always at least one child in class,” she explained, “who hadn’t eaten that day.” It broke Noemi’s heart to see them suffering in silence. After a time, she could no longer bear to see other children starving right in front of her. So she decided to do something about it.
Noemi lived next to a rice field. At the end of the growing season, the farmers harvested their crops. But the reaping methods were never 100 percent efficient, so the fields were always left with a scattering of rice. After school each day, Noemi took a five-gallon plastic bucket out to glean the remaining rice from the field, sometimes a single grain at at time. When her bucket was full, she took it to the local market to sell it for a few pesos. And with that money, she bought some food and brought it to school to feed whoever hadn’t eaten that day. Then after school, she did it again. And again. And again.
So to Noemi, being poor didn’t mean you had nothing to give. It just meant you had to be a little more creative and perhaps work a little harder to do it. And for the rest of her life, that compassion and love and charity has continued to show up in the form of food.
Her story helped Marvin understand why she always made too much food at her parties. And it surely taught him something much more important about charity.
So, what are you doing after school today?
As with all these stories, I encourage you to share this with your kids, and then have a discussion about it. Here are some questions to get you started.
- Do you know anyone who doesn’t get enough food to eat every day?
- Can you imagine how difficult it must be to concentrate and study if you’re hungry?
- Have you ever volunteered your time to a charitable organization? What was it? And how did you feel when you finished?
- What’s the difference between giving people food to eat and giving them money to buy their own food? What are some of the pros and cons to doing each one?
- What could you do to help those less fortunate than you that doesn’t involve giving money?
- What are you doing after school today?
[You can find this and over 100 other character-building stories in my book, Parenting with a Story.]
Paul Smith is one of the world’s leading experts on business storytelling. He’s a keynote speaker, storytelling coach, and bestselling author of the books Lead with a Story and Parenting with a Story.
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Really amazing post! So important to reflect on what’s really important. Thanks for sharing Marvin!
What a beautiful reminder. Indeed we don’t need to have wealth to be rich, we don’t need to have wealth to give. As someone who also grew up with very little, this story resonates so deeply with me. Naomi is a shining example for us all of focusing on what we CAN do rather than getting lost in what we feel we can’t do. Will definitely share this story! HUGS from my heart to yours!
PS> Hugs are something else to freely give, no cost but the use of your arms and heart 🙂