My wife Amy and I have two sons–Miles and Charlie–who are four years old and almost two years old, respectively. Do you know what one character trait we spend the most energy and time attempting to teach them? Of course you do! It’s sharing.
Share the Legos. Give your brother a turn with that truck. Let that kid use the swing now. Pass the ball. We parents (and teachers, and coaches, and camp counselors, etc.) must be ever vigilant, for the children are constantly tempted to do anything but share.
This is all well and good, but sometime in the last four years that I’ve been a parent I’ve realized with a mix of great dismay and hilarious irony that adults don’t share. Of course that’s a generalization, and some adults do share really well, but if you just think about how much energy we expend attempting to get children to share, and how important we must therefore believe sharing to be, the whole concept of sharing seems to up and disappear without any comment by the time we’re 25.
Well I’m here today to say, I think sharing is for adults, too. And sharing can (and probably should!) be a part of your financial plan, because 1) It represents a wiser use of natural and financial resources, 2) It’s cheaper, 3) It brings us closer to our neighbors and friends, because we share interdependent relationships, and 4) Maybe our kids have such a hard time with sharing because they never see us doing it!
So, without further ado, here are a few practical ways I’ve been party to or witnessed sharing among adults.
- Lawn equipment. If you still do your own yard work, and you have neighbors who still do their own yard work, do you all need to go out and separately purchase a lawnmower, weed eater, edger, blower, chainsaw, and hedge trimmer? Probably not! My neighbor and I have shared a number of these pieces of equipment over the years, and believe it or not, they all work the same as they would if we owned them independently…
- Vehicles. I used to have a truck but currently drive a sub-compact hatchback which I love, but which does not do as good a job as my truck did at hauling loads of limbs to the dump, or bringing a Christmas tree home, or moving furniture, etc. I have gone from being someone who happily shared his truck to being the guy who asks my neighbor (same one as above!) if I can borrow his. However, this didn’t happen until I had rented a truck for a project (which cost me money and time), and my neighbor got really mad that I had gone to all that trouble instead of just asking for help. It was a great lesson in being a good neighbor! And it’s saved me a bunch of time and money since.
- Vacations. I am a big believer that friends should try and share vacations from time to time. I know families are all different, and this can be stressful with young kids, but I think ultimately everyone has more fun. Plus, you can often save money on rent, food, entertainment, etc. when everyone pools resources and helps carry the load.
- Meals. Opening up our homes to share meals with friends and neighbors is quite simply one of the great acts of humanity. Period. I wish we did more of it. There’s something magical about these meals and the way food seems to materialize out of thin air but actually comes from our own hands and the time we give to it.
- Homes. Whether vacation homes or primary residences, there are all sorts of ways to share a home. Perhaps it’s simply to give a nice weekend away to a friend who needs it. Maybe it’s a mother-in-law suite that you rent out and increase your income with until your mother-in-law actually needs it. Or maybe it’s even taking the Vacation bullet above even further and going in with another family to purchase a property that you will use together.
The possibilities for sharing are nearly endless, and the common thread through all of them is of course the same for adults as it is for the children we are trying to teach. Namely, that in giving up a little convenience, or a little pride, or a little image, we are gaining a greater good that shows up in the form of deeper relationships, more vivid memories, a healthier sense of self, and yes, even better financial outcomes!
What about you? What are some ways you’ve seen adults sharing well? We’d love to hear.