Column: Teach the next generation how much they have to give

Simply stewardship
Lesle Knop is the executive director of the archdiocesan office of stewardship and development. You can email her at: lesleknop@archkck.org

by Lesle Knop 

Recently, one of our daughters took her adorable (of course) toddler to a live performance of “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood,” a PBS animated TV series that features themes from the familiar characters of “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” in new episodes for preschoolers. Oh, was that an exciting day.

Daniel Tiger is always welcome at our house. His make-believe experiences teach manners, safety and a sense of self, such as anger management, making mistakes, taking turns and sharing toys. The premise of a recent episode was doing something nice for your neighbor.

Our family mourned when the show’s creator and host Fred Rogers, who was an ordained Presbyterian minister, died in February 2003 after a battle with stomach cancer. Mister Rogers’ characters and stories were beloved by millions of kids. Daniel Tiger is reaching a new generation with many of the same gentle, moral tales.

I draw comparisons to lessons from Scripture and the Catechism of the Catholic Church with nearly every episode. For example, the church teaches that we should care for the poor. One way this is understood is through the Seventh Commandment, “You shall not steal.” How is caring for the poor related to stealing? A greedy person doesn’t give to the poor: “You received without payment; give without payment” (Mt 10:8).

From a little trolley, Christ-like lessons are delivered on a child’s level. When Daniel Tiger learns to share or to say thank you, little viewers remember this good behavior. Daniel Tiger has a bedtime routine, for example. Aren’t healthy habits and choices one of the manifestations of a Christian steward’s way of life?

Every day, families have opportunities to exemplify Christian stewardship by being generous and kind toward one another. As I enjoy my grandchildren, I take a cue from Daniel Tiger and ask: What’s your favorite way to help others? What’s a way you can show your daddy and mommy you love them?

As Christian stewards, we know that all good in this world is a gift from God. We give back in gratitude, knowing that our actions are pleasing to God.

Rogers said, “Caring grows little by little as children develop the ability to see the world through other people’s eyes. That’s the foundation for empathy, the capacity to appreciate how others might feel.”

Jesus simply said, “Give to him who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you” (Mt 5:42).

What are your gifts? Do you share them with others freely, without expecting anything in return? Do you remember to thank God for your gifts? Just as God loves each of us, caring parents love their “grrrr-ific” kids. Let’s teach them that they each have much to give.

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