Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Living and Giving as Parents

What is the long-term life of this girl, walking the
fields in northern India look like?

I recently came across a post by a former co-worker (who happens to be an excellent motivator), that reminded me of the importance that we, as parents, can place on things that really are not important. Romeo’s post, entitled "The little boy with the Orange Water" and how his 4 year old was willing to give up money for a video game so another little boy could have clean water was very moving.
How can parents teach giving if they don't give themselves?
While we prepare for a rummage sale we have talked about giving up some toys that we may not use so we can pay for a waterslide that we found on Craigslist. But really, is that equation really enough? What am I teaching besides the importance of not having too much stuff? Yes it is better than just indulging and giving everything a 4 year old could want (and that is a heck of a lot), but really… the whole “first world problem” comes into play here. How do I, as a parent who wants to instill a sense of interconnectedness and giving do that without exposing too much horrors of the world? Or, am I doing a disservice and sheltering when, instead, I could be teaching?
What does education mean to the
school girls in this picture?
Back to Romeo’s post – it was so moving that I’ve decided that even though my 4 year old’s subtraction skills aren’t entirely to a point where she can understand saving and giving, I want to start having her look at money differently. Before she was born I read an idea (no idea where!) and came up with a plan for allowance. We’ve yet to fully decide if we’ll do any ‘take away’ for not putting away her toys (so far I’m against it, but not entirely), but I do want her to see the value of money.  The allowance plan goes like this. For my 4 year old, she gets $4 every week. With that $4, she has to save $2, give $1 and she can spend $1. She understands how the money can add up, and some basic subtraction, but I want her to understand the importance of other people and the importance of giving. 
We can’t just do a second glance when we someone in need. We need to look and see what our soul is telling us and driving us. For what are we yearning? What truly matters? I hear a lot about saving for retirement, but I hear less about saving the world for one person. If I donate $30 a month so a child can go to school and have fresh water, isn’t that more important than me having a middle class life 30 years from now when I retire?
 Now, I'm not saying that we need to just give all the time without second glance. Many programs out there are more enablers than problem solvers, but when basics needs aren't being met (education, sanitation, food), the story is much different. 
Money may make people more comfortable, but it doesn’t give you happiness. I’ve had a “host pack” delivered from House Party for “Because I am a Girl” from Plan International.  I also recently stopped my giving to SOS Children’s Villages, and I really think it is time for me re-think my stopping and start up again.  As cliché as it sounds, when we give we receive so much more back.  Knowing that you’re helping someone else with a hand up in life not only helps their community, it creates a safer, more loving world.


Stephanie said...

It's so important for me to model generosity and compassion to my kids. Thanks for the gentle reminder.

stephanie said...

I went to Guatemala and saw first hand sometimes less is more. They have so little but live richer lives. Wonderful to travel especially with children.