How to do alms giving when you don’t have a lot of money

While it is one of the 3 pillars of Lent, we don’t have to be rich to live it.

It wasn’t the first time one of my catechism class kids came up with the topic for class. We had Lent on the lesson plan; that’s a broad subject, and the book our parish uses has it conveniently broken down for me into the history, purpose, and sacrifices of Lent.

My fourth-grade class is always curious and eager to talk and ask questions, which is part of what I love best about teaching them.

We explained prayer, fasting and alms giving as familiar practices for Lent. Of course the word alms giving immediately brings to mind money. Giving, donating and sharing are all familiar topics to 9- and 10-year-olds but they assumed, as many people do, that it only refers to money.

“Well, if your family doesn’t have a lot of money what are you supposed to do?” one boy asked. “Sometimes my father says before we go to church, ‘Oh I don’t have any money to put in the basket!’” A girl sitting across from him added, “Yeah, my parents say they owe a lot of money so they can’t put any money in the maternity home collection boxes you gave us.”

I was so glad they brought this up! While we might need to think a bit outside of the box (and sacrificially) to find a few spare rupees a month, God certainly doesn’t limit our giving, donating, and sharing to mere financial support.

Among the great folks who give in various ways is one of my student’s mothers. She sings in the church choir. As I mentioned her, I explained that “she is giving her time and her voice to our parish.”

Her daughter admitted she hadn’t thought of that as “giving.”

Two boys in my class are altar servers. I pointed out that this was their way of giving, through their time and service. I shared with them about a small group of women I know who go to a nearby nursing home one morning a month. They give their time and their compassion, praying the Rosary, bringing a small dog for the residents to hold and play with, and listening to their stories. The children were fascinated by this kind gesture for complete strangers.

I mentioned the women who knit baby blankets for a pregnancy center, and a man and his teenage son who’ve done handyman jobs at the local maternity home.

Another student said his uncle is a plumber and recently, ”he fixed his neighbor’s plumbing problem for free because the father of the family just died and the mom is really sad.”

God is happy when we give of our time, talent, or treasure, I said, and not everyone has a lot of treasure. The ideas for how we can share our time or talent to help others are endless, these fourth graders realized.

“And you’re giving your time and talent to teach us about God!” another girl said. Yes, and what a joy it is.