November 10, 2011

Kids who give: the panacea to chronic worry?

My friend's nephew is raising funds to support clean water projects in India and that got me to thinking. How is it that we raise kids with a better awareness of the world they live in, of bigger problems than not having a DS, of giving as well as receiving.

My niece and nephew had lemonade stands for their younger days and donated the money to local charities. I believe they have also participated in one of those foster parenting programs that create a connection, a narrative really, so that people can picture where their money goes.

My biggest worry is creating worriers. See what I did there? You see, worrying runs in our family. And not the kind that is constructive. I remember, way back in the 80s, when North Korea shot down a South Korean passenger jet and I was certain that nuclear war would ensue. Um, I was at summer camp, for peat's sake. And I became hysterical. I was 15 or 16, had sponsored the no-nukes club at my school (because I could draw a mean poster of a nuclear cloud, sad truth be told). We never got up to much else and the club disintegrated very rapidly for lack of substance but I was left to worry.

I think that kids -- and all of us, in fact -- really groove on the tangible. I am pretty sure that my friend's nephew was not only informed about how the people to whom he is dedicating his birthday gifts, but also given information to which he could relate: I'm thinking that bottle of water he is using as a prop did not come from India, but rather some lake near his home.

If I tell my kids that there are kids in Canada (true story) that don't have clean water to drink, it means nothing to them except that they have reason to worry about some kids somewhere. If I take the time to find ways to demonstrate how this would be to live through, it becomes as clear as clean water. They get it.

Joules and her family have obviously awoken and/or supported the empathy thing in this child. I imagine this kid weighing the facts: What would it be like to drink cloudy water from my local lake, water that would make my stomach ache?, and then to need to make the connection to what he can do to make a difference.

I want this for my kids, this ability to mobilize. I don't just want them to think, Oh those poor people, and move on with a little less bounce in their step. I slip into that feeling: this world is so big, there are so many problems, what can I do, *shrug*. It is not a nice feeling.

We've been having "fiver" parties since my eldest turned 5, influenced by a friend's doing it before us. My kids sometimes choose to participate in this type of party, and sometimes they don't. I like the balance they are finding.

A "fiver" party invites party-goers to bring two five dollar bills in lieu of a gift to the party. One bill goes into an envelope for the child to use to buy a toy of their choosing, and the other bill goes into an envelope to go to a charity of the child's choice. Net results are that the child chooses something they've wanted or would use, the parents spend less on a birthday gift than they otherwise would and don't have to make a trip to the toy store and the child starts thinking about the needs of others in their community, be that within their neighbourhood, city, country or world.

My kids have chosen very local charities, but I don't think I've done a great job yet of educating them of ways to find a cause to which they can relate. I guess my work is cut out for me.

For now, not only am I going to pull out my credit card and donate my friend's nephew, in an effort to fan the flames of his enthusiasm, I am also going to help my kids find charities or causes that bring them some connection, something they to which they can relate and get behind. I hope by doing this, I will enable my kids to do more and worry less.


  1. I really love you so hard. You are such a present parent and such a thoughtful thinker of thoughts(kwim?). Thank you.

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  3. So long as those thoughts turn to action and not worry it is all good. Thanks for giving me a good solid prompt to think about. <3

  4. Everytime I see a "this post has been removed" my heart stops. But this one was a duplicate. No, really. =)

  5. hehe, it really wasn't. No, it was. N't.

  6. Great stuff! Really. Action instead of worry is so important! Thanks for your lovely comment btw Lucas is doing so much better xxxxx

  7. I hear you on the balance between otherness and worry, but kudos for embracing the need to raise people with an awareness of the social contract inherent in life. I think that kids are naturally generous and somewhere along the line this gets dampened. One weekend this pat October I came upon a little girl sitting out by herself at a table on which were UNICEF boxes and a bowl of candy. "WOuld you like to give to UNICEF?" she asked. "We're offering a piece of candy to say thank you to everyone who donates." There is hope for the world when a little kid spends her Saturday raising money for unfortunate children elsewhere.