Recently, my daughter Addy had a mild bout with the flu. Over a long weekend, we cuddled on the couch and watched movies. One in particular, The Ultimate Gift, caught my attention, and not because it boasted big name actors from my youth like James Garner, Lee Meriweather and Brian Dennehy.
It was a movie about Jason Stevens, a trust fund brat who receives twelve tasks—or gifts—instead of the big inheritance he is expecting from his grandfather. If Jason is going to receive any money, he must accept the gifts and complete the tasks within one year’s time. As he works through the tasks, he is transformed from a spoiled rotten and indifferent person to an exceptional adult.
Addy wasn’t crazy about the movie, but that’s not the key point here. The clincher is that the movie she really didn’t like delivered a powerful lesson with visuals. As an example, one of the gifts was the “Gift of Work.” Jason is sent to Texas to work on a ranch. His job is to build a fence. Accustomed to his extravagant lifestyle, Jason’s first reaction is to think it’s not worth it—no matter what the pay-off.
For the first few days, he doesn’t do much of anything. He waits for the crew to bring his food and he naps. Later, he begins building what he believes is a fence. The posts are poorly grounded and most are crooked, as well as being sloppily wired together. Although he is proud of his accomplishment, his boss, Gus the Rancher, is not. Gus unceremoniously ties a rope attached to his truck to what Jason is calling a fence and drives off. Yes, the contraption is torn down.
After Addy recovered from her illness, I decided to pay her to clean an outside refrigerator. In less than ten minutes she was outside, then inside again, passing me in the hall.
“Where are you going,” I asked. “I’m done.” I knew it was time for a chore check.
Let’s just say my idea of clean was very different than hers. “Remember Jason and the fence?” I said. After a brief discussion, she got it. She finished the job—a job well done.
In the movie, Jason has to address issues including problems, friends, family, giving, and gratitude, as well as others that he had missed due to his affluent and insulated life. At one point, Jason is stripped of all his financial resources. His mother can’t help him or she will lose what she got in the deal. Jason has to figure out how to function without an endless supply of funds. Our children can benefit from this lesson as well.
Of course we’re not going to cut them off and put them out on the street, as happened to Jason, but we can teach them lessons about money and work. Providing allowances and paying them to do odd jobs is a good starting place.
When your children want something like a new CD or Xbox game, help them figure out ways to earn the money instead of footing the bill. Step-by-painful-and-entertaining-step, Jason is led to develop the resources so that he eventually gains the ability to give and receive the gift that we all seek: the gift of love. On the film’s website (TheUltimateGift.com), James Garner, who played Jason’s grandfather, is quoted as saying “If you want to take your family to see a movie that will teach them about life lessons and the importance of character, this is the film to see.” I agree, James. I agree.
Allyn Evans (TheAlertParent.com) is a published author, professional speaker and consultant residing in Stillwater, OK.