With December here, we don’t have to wonder what our kids are thinking about. They’re making their lists and checking them many more times than twice. It might be a toy car for a child or a first car for a teenager. From Fisher-Price to Ford, there’s something for everyone at every age during this season of giving.

As focused as our kids may be on what they’re getting for Christmas, sometimes that makes it even more surprising how much they want to give.

The New York Post Office even has an Operation Santa division, where they watch for letters to Santa where kids describe someone in need. Volunteers match donors to the kids’ unselfish requests. The postal service’s Director of Elf Operations expects about two million such letters this Christmas, just in New York alone.

Children seem to be the first to notice the homeless man on the street or know about the family with the unemployed dad. They’re wired for generosity, and how we approach the holidays will help determine if they stay that way.

In each one of our lives, we have a tendency to move toward a lifestyle of generosity or a lifestyle of greed. Are we wrapped up in ourselves or our things, or do we reflect God’s character by giving freely to others?

Kids will see this most clearly when parents and leaders give them a specific opportunity to be generous.

For an example, let me tell you about Seth. I wish you had a chance to meet him. Seth had an unruly reputation in his fifth-grade class. He wouldn’t pay attention and got into trouble for being disrespectful. Then one Sunday, Seth heard in his small group at church about some kids about his age in another country. The small group leader talked about those kids and what they needed just to survive.

For some reason, that got Seth’s attention.

He decided he’d shovel snow to raise money so he could help his small group support one of the kids overseas.

One of Seth’s teachers wrote us to tell us how this simple act of generosity led to a radical transformation in Seth’s life. His attention span changed, he participated in class, he had a new view of the world.

We might even say Seth became part of a better story.

When the apostle Paul was talking to young Timothy, he gave this simple instruction about how to be part of a better story: “Be rich in good deeds. Be generous and willing to share” (I Timothy 6:18).

In other words, you’re not generous because you’re rich. You’re rich because you’re generous.

Kids will face the tension between generosity and greed all of their lives. It will only intensify as they grow older. First it’s toys, then suddenly it’s houses and bank accounts. But we can teach them to measure success in a different way, not by what they get, but by what they give. For Seth, that made all the difference.