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To give, or not to give

You have three high-school-aged grandchildren. The oldest is an excellent student and would go to university if his parents had enough money. The other two have no plans beyond high school other than buying motorcycles and having fun. You have $10,000 set aside for your grandchildren’s futures. Do you dole it out equally?

By Lee Simpson and Kevin Little

Rev. Lee Simpson is a writer in Lunenburg, N.S. New posts of YBN will appear every other Friday. You can also check out a short documentary about Lee at http://www.ucobserver.org/video/2014/04/ybn/.

There is a Gospel parable for everything. On money issues, there is a particular wealth.  

But rather than a “money verse” for guidance, let’s look at Luke 13:21. Here Jesus is asked the nature of the kingdom of God. His answer? “It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened.” When we are generous, what we are truly doling out is our small donation to heaven here on earth. It should be a blessing and not a judgment on the recipient.

I’ll think through the implications of sharing the $10,000 unequally because my grandchildren will. Should I elect to give a greater share to the eldest, I am saying the younger are less worthy. I may think I am endorsing one set of dreams (an education) versus another (motorcycles), but that is not how the young people will interpret it. By being unequal with my gift, I risk turning the eldest into a smug prig. The hedonistic ambitions of the younger two may well become self-fulfilling prophecies. Beyond the damage to their relationships with one another, think how they will feel about me!

However, if I distribute that yeast evenly and watch it rise, my grandchildren may surprise me. Apart from the fact that youthful dreams are as changeable as weather, there is much to be said for a passion for life. By all means, I’ll invest $3,333 in coursework at a reputable university. But perhaps one of the younger children will invest in an environmentally sustainable motorcycle repair business. Maybe the other will turn her love of fun into a camp play program for disabled children.

Grandparenting, like bread making, is a spectator sport: I’ll sit back and smile at whatever blessings my money can reap.

Author's photo
Rev. Kevin Little is a minister at St. Luke’s United in Upper Tantallon, N.S.

It’s hard for me as a 46-year-old middle-class man to shift to the perspective of a grandparent who grew up in the shadow of the Second World War and raised a family during the baby boom. Our values are different. Today’s grandparents grew up at a time when there was pressure to conform, to not think of yourself as “too big.”  

My generation takes for granted opportunities our parents — today’s grandparents — never had.

That’s why I get worried when I hear “be good to yourself” passed on to my generation when it is best reserved for seniors.

So, turning to these three young people — one driven to academic success, two unsure of their next steps — I am not worried about showing favouritism and hurting their feelings. These are children who grew up winning trophies for showing up, who received presents at other people’s birthday parties, who hear graduation speeches like, “I look out today and see the next Einstein, Gates and Oprah.”

But I am concerned about narcissism. So I will give each of them the same amount. I don’t think a university education adds any more value to a person’s character than travelling abroad, joining Katimavik or teaching at Frontier College. I will challenge the two grandchildren who are contemplating buying motorcycles to use my gift to participate in a cause greater than themselves. If nothing comes to mind, I will invest the money until their epiphany arrives.

For my generation and those beyond, there is no better Scripture advice than Luke 12:48b: “From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required; and from the one to whom much has been entrusted, even more will be demanded.”

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