Saturday, March 30, 2013

Freely Given

When I was a kid, teachers handed out Unicef boxes at school before Halloween. The idea was a child would either collect money for starving children or trick or treat for candy for their own selfish selves, but never both.

I never understood why the two things had to be connected, but when I said that, adults recoiled, staring, from their great heights, down their noses at me. Clearly, I wasn’t just selfish, I was shockingly selfish.

But I still don’t get it. It seems to me that this idea that giving always has to involve sacrifice and always has to hurt, coming from whatever nasty Puritan roots, causes people, including children, to be less giving, not more. Others have noted the same thing, dubbing it the “feel good, do good phenomena.”

When my kids were small, I would give them whatever quarters I had to put into the parking meters we passed that were running low. They were so tickled to be able to do someone, an adult no less, a good turn.

When my high-school daughter stays after school and wants to walk to the Jack in the Box on the corner, she invites her friends along, her treat. We think that's great and give her money to do it. Surprisingly few of her friends carry money – another impediment to teens’ generosity. And nothing is sadder than watching a voraciously hungry teenage boy grubbing in his pockets for change, hoping to scrape enough together for a lousy candy bar, only to realize he can't.

I believe if you give kids a few bucks, and much more importantly, a sense of abundance rather than scarcity in their own lives, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how generous they can be.

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