Every year I file my taxes and I’m confronted with cold, hard facts about how much I have donated to charity during the year before. Sure small money trickles out here and there supporting the Girl and Boy Scouts, various extracurricular programs at school, and special collections but the big ticket items are the ones I take time to itemize once a year. I shake my head over my failure to get better, fulfilling my Christian duty to feed the hungry, clothe the naked…my duty to help those less fortunate than me, to make the world a better place.
I vowed to do differently this year.
One of the things I’ve been harping on at work lately is “what gets measured, gets managed”, so in our recent weekly family meeting, the Louie Scoop, we shared with the kids how much we donated to our church in 2017. After all, we had just gotten the giving statement in the mail. We also had the kids prepare donation envelopes of their own last year, to get them physically in the habit of supporting our place of worship since it operates and conducts its outreach only with our help. The statement included their donation amounts.
It was eye-opening to them and us, frankly, to talk about what we had given and our desire and obligation to do more as individuals and as a family. Plus my husband and I want conversations about money to be normal, not taboo. We realize that makes us very different than other people but hey, given the financial status of most citizens of the US, it seems like an idea whose time has come. Besides, charitable giving of money, versus time, is one of those things that otherwise flies under the radar for kids.
I realize too that I have a worldwide readership here, and Americans are so incredibly prosperous whether or not they believe it. That said, all things relative, Americans can do much better managing their money and personally, our family can too.
This self-reflection got me to thinking that other than church and the United Way, there is no charity I routinely support. Sure, various groups pop up every now and then and the Red Cross is a repeat recipient given the sheer increase in natural disasters over recent years, but I am bothered that I have lived this long and haven’t examined my heart enough to see where I can make a difference and channel my money there to some degree.
I count my blessings too, that I haven’t been struck by tragedy compelling me to support a particular cause. But status quo isn’t good enough for me. I’ve done well enough financially and I can do more for others.
To drive the initiative a little harder at home, my husband and I told the kids during our latest Louie Scoop that we would donate a multiple of their age to a charity of their choice during their birthday month. Their eyes lit up.
Our youngest, Lance (7), piped up in the meeting: “Hey, who comes and takes you away in a car if you’re sick?”
“The EMT? The ambulance?” we probed.
“Yes, that’s it!” he exclaimed with a giant grin. “The ambulance. I want to donate to the ambulance, because get it? AM-BU-LANCE! It has my name in it!”
I’m telling you: that kid? He cracks us up. “Yes, Lance, we can donate to the ambulance in your name when your birthday rolls around.” He really is something else…
Our daughter’s birthday was the same month we mentioned it in our family meeting so the timing was right, and she knew immediately what she wanted to do: save the pandas. She already knew of a charity that protects them but we went online and did a little more research to confirm which institution she wanted to donate to, and boom, I sent the money in. It brought a smile of satisfaction to my face. I hope we always do this.
While I’ve got some work to do studying what charities I want to support, and it will likely be support women and children, our kids demonstrates once again that they GET IT. Just when we wonder if the concepts we’re trying to teach them will resonate, they show us again and again they are WAY ahead of the game.
We are trying our best to raise warm, open-hearted people who are alms-mighty.