Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Caring Causes: Children and Charity


Why it Matters Now More Than Ever that Kids Experience Empathy and Giving

by Michelle Moore

In 2005, I took my 9-year-old to New Orleans to help clean up after Hurricane Katrina - we had been watching the news as the tragedy unfolded and felt oddly compelled to help. We contacted a local hurricane recovery center called Saint Paul’s Homecoming and booked a flight. Before leaving home, my son organized a Walmart gift card drive at his school and was able to bring  over $4000 in gift cards down for families needing basic necessities. When we descended upon New Orleans, we saw destruction for miles in every direction, and when we landed, the airport felt like a war zone with lots of security and very little travelers. Upon arrival at the center, we had clean-up assignments each day; mostly cleaning out abandoned homes to be gutted. We had to wear special suits to protect us from mold. We picked up trash, boxed up wet and smelly belongings, and raked yards. My son participated in every task, but what he really enjoyed was bonding with the community. Even though the work we did was very physically draining, he was able to understand the spirit of the people of New Orleans and as a bonus, we got to attend a Saints game. He still talks about this amazing trip and his autographed photo from Drew Brees.

After that, we took a trip to Africa to volunteer in an orphanage - personally, I was becoming addicted to working in and helping communities and families in need and whenever someone asked. Taking my boys simply made it more meaningful. In Africa we painted buildings, worked in the gardens and taught English classes. After the work projects, we got to hike Mt. Kilimanjaro as a family because this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and we were there, so why not? 

Kids have a natural empathy, especially for other kids. I think they can actually picture themselves in others’ shoes. When they see someone like them struggle and in despair, they automatically want to help. As parents, we just have to facilitate the process by putting them in the right situations and circumstances (safely organized, of course). The camaraderie and energy developed during these projects builds self esteem and inclusiveness.  In both of these instances my boys learned about different cultures and vastly different situations. It’s also fun to incorporate a cool activity with a project or trip that gives everyone something special to look forward to and builds amazing family memories together.

Check out the classic poem that hung over my kitchen table as a child: 

Children Learn What They Live

by Dorothy Law Nolte

If children live with criticism,

They learn to condemn.

If children live with hostility,

They learn to fight.

If children live with ridicule,

They learn to be shy.

If children live with shame,

They learn to feel guilty.

If children live with encouragement,

They learn confidence.

If children live with tolerance,

They learn to be patient.

If children live with praise,

They learn to appreciate.

If children live with acceptance,

They learn to love.

If children live with approval,

They learn to like themselves.

If children live with honesty,

They learn truthfulness.

If children live with security,

They learn to have faith in themselves and others.

If children live with friendliness,

They learn the world is a nice place in which to live.

(Copyright © 1972/1975 by Dorothy Law Nolte)

Download or create one of these for your fridge or kitchen wall where it will be easily seen and read. 

With awareness and direction, we understand that modeling is important but only part of the equation. It’s also vital for kids to work alongside their parents while having their questions answered in a context for learning. 

Starting young ingrains empathy into their little souls. However, more important than anything on a large scale, like cleaning up after a natural disaster or traveling to a foreign country, is doing small meaningful things consistently in your own community. Model, model, model. Adopt families during the holidays, have children share part of their allowance to donate to their favorite charity, even better have them organize their own “walk” teams for fundraising. For example, my son organized “Brooks’ Buddies” to benefit JDRF. (Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation) He, being a type-1 diabetic himself, loved the idea of sharing the knowledge with friends and family every year and has had up to 70 kids on his team. He designed his own t-shirts and had a party after. Today he has a photo of each year’s team and the logo for his tees on his wall and he often speaks about the events being some of his best memories. In addition he has evolved into a young man who is always creating teams of some sort.

Do your kids write thank you notes? Not just for gifts but for the kindness of others: If a family takes them on a trip - why not acknowledge how fun it was with a note? What if a teacher helps through a tough spot, acknowledge the kindness. This manifests gratefulness and accountability.  Keep them involved in some sort of spiritual community. Take them out into nature and teach them to respect it, they need to not only respect other human beings but our world and all of the creatures in it. Hike, camp, boat, travel, but don’t just do it, engage your kids into the experience and discuss what they are grateful for and how they can pay it forward.

The following is my short list of tips to get started modeling and teaching empathy and giving: 

  1. Set up an adventure philanthropy - The goal is to have fun together, learn a new culture, understand the bigger picture. This does not have to be overseas -  there are great Habitat for Humanity projects in our country as well as clean up opportunities in natural disaster-affected areas. An adventure can be across town as easily as across the country.
  2. Make philanthropy fit the child  - For example, if you kid likes sports, have them work with a disabled sports team, if they love to read, have them read to kids in the hospital or help with storytime at your neighborhood library.
  3. Set it up as a win-win -  Something that coincides/coordinates with the project, for example when we finished our project in New Orleans, we went to a Saints game to see the city and support the community. After volunteering at the orphanage, we climbed Kilimanjaro. Helping can be rewarding in more than one way. The fun coincides with the work which then becomes habit and lasting memories are made. Older kids can apply for service scholarships, which is another way to help them realize the fruits of their labor

When I ask my kids, “What inspired you most to be philanthropic?” They answer that watching what I did influenced them, but incorporating the projects into unique family opportunities made it cool. Giving should not be seen as a chore, it should be something everyone looks forward to, and should be in context with a larger adventure vs. a thing to cross off the list. Let your children give in the way that resonates most with them and their empathy will take on a life of its own. 

Michelle Moore is the mom of three boys and founder and president of Mother’s Grace, a nonprofit that addresses the critical needs of mothers and their children in the midst of tragic life events. Her new book, A Mother’s Grace: Healing the World One Woman at a Time shares the stories of 12 rockstar moms who are setting the world on fire helping others.

Website: https://mothers-grace.org/

FB: https://www.facebook.com/Mothers-Grace-196458780398320/

IG: https://www.instagram.com/mothersgrace_/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/gracefulmoms

Buy links:

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Mothers-Grace-Healing-World-Woman/dp/0757323669/ref=sr_1_3?dchild=1&keywords=a+mother%27s+grace&qid=1595956867&sr=8-3


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