In January, I had the privilege of spending 2 hours listening to the most incredible speaker I have ever heard.
Dr. Martin Brokenleg was the keynote speaker at the BC Alternate Educators Conference. He spoke about Lakota culture and what we can learn from Lakota culture and apply towards best practices in education. Over the two hours, I laughed and I cried, and by the end, I felt like I was fundamentally changed for the better. While Dr. Brokenleg was focused on education, everything he said could be applied to best practices in life, especially in regard to raising children.
Dr. Brokenleg told us that to be successful in life all kids need to know a few things:
1. They are significant (they know they are loved and that they belong),
2. They are competent (they have mastery and they are knowledgable),
3. They are powerful (they are independent and accountable)
4. They have goodness (they are generous and have something to give)
Dr. Brokenleg spoke in detail about all of them but I'm going to focus on the last one, generosity. He told us many stories on the importance of generosity in Lakota culture. For example, when he was a child and his family had friends over to visit, he was expected to give his playmates one of his favourite toys to show how much he cares about them. I can't imagine my kids going to their room and picking out one of the things they love and giving it to a friend. Most kids have a hard time sharing their favourite toys with friends when it is only for a short time during a playdate, so imagine if they had to give away something they love. He also told us that when someone dies, the family has a ceremony and invites everyone in the community. They spend everything they have and give away as gifts everything they own. This allows them to start over with nothing and depend on the community around them for support. Having no personal possessions, they are as physically empty, as they are emotionally empty, after the death of a loved one. I can only imagine how incredibly powerful this type of giving can be.
Dr. Brokenleg spoke about how real generosity affects the giver, but also the receiver and that real generosity needs to hurt a little. He said that "real generosity carries baggage and changes everyone along the way."
I've been thinking about generosity lately as I just received a new order of Giving Keys. Giving Keys are the epitome of real generosity. They are old keys that are engraved by people transitioning out of homelessness in LA. In addition to the social good, the other beautiful part about them is that they are engraved with meaningful words like INSPIRE, BELIEVE, STRENGTH, COURAGE, HOPE, DREAM, LOVE etc.. and that they are meant to be passed on when you feel that someone else needs the word engraved on the key more than you do.
The Pay it Forward stories on the Giving Keys website are incredibly inspiring stories of giving. When you can buy something meaningful for yourself or be given something so meaningful as a special gift and you then choose to pass it along to someone else, that feeling of giving is incredibly powerful. I choose a BREATHE Giving Key for myself when the first order for Giving Gifts arrived. It is a beautiful vintage key with flowers in the background. Every time I feel overwhelmed or my life feels like it is out of control, I put on my BREATHE key. It is extremely meaningful to me. I am sure one day I will pass along my Giving Key. One day, I'll add the story of my BREATHE key to the Giving Keys website and I know that when I do pass along my special key, I'll be changed and so will the person I give it to.
(My BREATHE key is very faintly engraved so it can only be read in the right light, at the right angle which is part of why I love it.)
Too often in our North American culture, we choose gifts because they are on sale or cheap, or we choose gifts because they have a higher perceived value, so the people we gift them to will think we are more generous that we actually are. There are even entire parties dedicated to re-gifting the gifts that we have received that were cheap and void of meaning. And, there are entire websites and hashtags dedicated to making fun of horrible gifts. I am so thankful to The Giving Keys for going back to beautiful roots, for bring back the meaning in giving gifts and for showing us what real generosity truly means. I think that Dr. Brokenleg would be approve.