'Tis the season of giving. No matter which holiday you celebrate, these words ring out loud and clear as we prepare for the turning of the new year. But is giving a seasonal event? According to yoga's foundational principles, giving is not an act we perform at a given time - it's a way to live our lives. Yoga encourages us to access our compassion and dedicate ourselves to the expression of love through giving and service. With all the holiday messages that surround us this time of year, what better message than this for our children?
Parade Magazine recently published an article about a man they call "The Shoestring Philanthropist." For 22 years Marc Gold has trekked through Asia looking for those in need. His gifts are small - a typical donation is $5. From restoring livelihoods to saving lives, Marc Gold proves that it doesn't take much to offer real and lasting help. By his estimate, he's touched more than 50,000 lives. Pretty impressive. But even more than the money, what touches people most deeply is knowing that someone - a stranger - cares enough to help.
Another inspiring program - The Kindness Center, also led by one inspiration man who lives right here in Maine and now travels this country and others spreading this simple message: All humans have the same purpose, to make better the lives of others.
All children have the capacity to be shoestring philanthropists and kindness advocates. Think about it. While they have little to give monetarily, children have a natural ability to access deep wells of love and compassion. Time and time again, I encounter stories about the generosity of children. And time and time again, they prove that pennies - their tokens of love and compassion - can make a tremendous difference.
As parents and teachers, it's our job to encourage and support children in the practice of compassion. It can begin with a simple conversation - and a little creative brainstorming - about how we can make a difference in someone else's life. You can undertake your service as a family, or have your children inspire their friends, or their schools, to work together for a cause.
In a recent YouTube post, Narayanan Krishnan - a CNN Hero who, like Marc Gold, dedicates his life to the service of others - asks the question, What's the ultimate purpose in life? His answer? It's giving. Start giving. See the joy of giving. Simply put, giving is the expression of love. Teach your children to give. Support them in the act of helping others - and they'll carry that with them all of their lives.
And that's a great joy, indeed.
Lisa Burk-McCoy, RYT200, is working toward a 500 hour teaching certificate in Classical Yoga from the YogaLife Institute. She also holds a prenatal yoga certification, and children's yoga certifications from ChildLight Yoga and Itsy Bitsy Yoga. Lisa currently serves as an instructor and business consultant for ChildLight Yoga. When not practicing yoga, she dabbles as a musician, playing flute in a local contra-dance band and teaching classical flute lessons to children and adults. She is blessed with a wonderful family–a husband, son and daughter, and a menagerie of pets. They make their home in Exeter, NH.