Character Counts: Resourcefulness

August 1, 2021 | Betsi Ashby

We are not always given the exact things we need to complete a task set before us. A simple, and all too often, example in our house is when deciding what to make for dinner, and the groceries are running slim. What can I make with what we have on hand? First, I take stock of what’s in the fridge and pantry, and then I get to imagining what tasty concoction I can put together. While tackling a new recipe by shopping for all the right ingredients and proudly serving it at our dinner table makes for a proud moment, it’s the success of serving up a hodge-podge meal that brings a unique kind of satisfaction—I feel like a real chef. This is me, practicing resourcefulness (while also reminding myself that meal planning is another skill I’d like to someday master) in my every day.

August’s character trait is Resourcefulness: to act effectively and imaginatively, to use information and available resources wisely and efficiently.

Here’s another example: the fair is happening in our county right now, and we had plans with another family to go one evening last week. But as we woke up our toddlers from their naps, the scene sky started drizzling (not a common occurrence around here on our California coast!). When our friends showed up at our house, it was clear none of us were very keen on heading to the fairgrounds—except for the six year old in our group. As tears started to form in her eyes as we discussed not going, we pivoted—what if we did our own fair? We asked her what she was most looking forward to, and she said face painting, food, and games (rollercoasters were mentioned, too, but we had to let that one go). So we hopped in the car, drove to Target, and picked up supplies. We then ordered take out and after enjoying a feast of noodles and curry, we set up booths around our house and yard. I divvied out coins from our spare change drawer, and we all enjoyed face painting, finger painting, unicorn ring toss, and hand picked prizes. It ended with a six year old run ice cream booth that left us all with tummy aches, as any good fair food should. And you know what? Everyone agreed this was way better than the actual fair. Our two families were resourceful when things didn’t go as planned, pooled our resources (and hidden face painting talents), and made a memory.

Practicing resourcefulness, to me, is like embarking on an adventure. You don’t know how it will turn out, you can’t control what will happen, but you set out anyway. The only thing you truly need is the inner resolve (aka catch phrase) that:

Here are some discussion prompts and questions to help dig deep into this character trait over the next month, what it means, and how you can encourage your child(ren) to be resourceful themselves:

      • Take time to list some ways that you as a family have been resourceful over the past few months.
      • Consider those around you, in what ways have you observed them being resourceful?
      • Characters in books and movies are often put into situations where they have to be resourceful, discuss some of your favorites (for a few suggestions, check back to our post from last August—Teaching Character Through Literature—for some great book recs!).
      • Practice resourcefulness—have your kids make a meal from limited ingredients or create an art project with recycled materials, etc.
      • Having to be resourceful often encourages gratitude. When you do not always have the things you need/want, it prompts you to be extra thankful for what you do have. Share with each other what you are grateful for or jot some thoughts down in a gratitude journal.
      • Imagination is a gift and kids are blessed with it in spades. Discuss how we can use our imagination to find ways to meet our needs (anyone read The Little Princess lately? She has a talent for using her imagination to make a little seem like a lot!).
      • As we study history, we learn about a lot of people who were resourceful—see if your student can think of a few examples. Here’s one to get started: Frederick Douglass was so determined to learn to read that he often exchanged his bread for lessons from poor little white boys, “The plan which I adopted, and the one by which I was most successful, was that of making friends of all the little white boys whom I met in the street. As many of these as I could, I converted into teachers.”

What feelings come after practicing being resourceful? I always feel a sense of amazement—which is why I think this quote from C.S. Lewis captures our character trait of the month so well, and also serves as a great reminder when things are not going as planned:

Another way to keep this character trait of the month top of mind is to print and hang our Resourcefulness poster! Click here to download.


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