When I was learning to talk, before I knew how to put sentences together, a single word carried lots of meaning. When it came to protecting the ownership of my toys, I shouted, “Mine!”—always with the exclamation mark.
A few years later, the one word was all I needed when I pull a toy back from my sister and shoved her away. She was not to roll my cast iron cars across the floor, not while I was present, not while I was away. She was not to hold them or even touch them. If I had my way, she wouldn’t be allowed to look at them. They were mine.
I don’t know how long it took me to learn the importance of sharing. Maybe it happened after I graduated from high school.
As a father, I wanted my three-year-old son to experience the thrill of sharing. Jesus said giving returned greater blessings than getting (Acts 20:35), but that’s a hard lesson to learn. I didn’t want him to grow up self-centered and selfish like I had been for so long, so I needed him to learn while he was young.
He was sitting on the floor, a few feet in front of the television, watching cartoons.
From the refrigerator, I gathered a pound of green grapes, washed them, and put them in a bowl. After handing him the bowl, I sat beside him, enjoying the cartoons as much as he did.
I loved fruit, and these were grapes I had bought with my money—making them “my grapes”—with an exclamation mark. But I had given him the bowl. Now the grapes were his, so I didn’t touch them. But I looked, waiting to see what he would do, hoping he would think to share with his dad.
One after another, he pulled grapes from their stems and popped them into his mouth. Not once did he glance toward me. His look gave me the feeling that he wished I would go away and leave him with his grapes.
“Don’t you think it would be nice,” I said, “to share your grapes with your dad?”
He looked at the grapes. He looked at me. He looked back at the grapes, this time with a slight quiver in his lips. Finally, he reached down, pulled off one grape, and moved the bowl closer to him.
Then he handed the grape to me.
Is this the way God teaches us about the value of giving—one grape at a time?