Tuesday, July 1, 2008

That's What I Want

My godson Simon has me thinking about money again. Simon is a beloved child and the first grandchild on both sides of his family, so it would be very easy for him to be spoiled. I am happy to say that his parents are actively trying to keep that from happening. Even though Simon is only five months old, Simon's mom Emily has already informed me that she does not want him getting too many gifts. I told her that I would probably just give him books and she said that would be fine.

After listening to another great podcast on Speaking of Faith, I am inspired to start a tradition of giving him an amount that he can donate to a charity of his choice. The podcast I was listening to yesterday discussed money and moral balance, and offered some suggestions to try to counter the 3,000 messages children get a day telling them to consume. Nathan Dungan, founder of Save Share Spend, talked about how children have natural compassion and want to share with others who are less fortunate. Dungan suggested ways parents can nurture this impulse while helping their children develop healthy money habits.

While thinking about this, it really hit me how little contact I have with the poor. Although I complain all the time about being broke, I am definitely not poor, and beyond giving away the occasional sandwich to someone with a sign, I do not actively do much to help poor people. My sister called me out on this a few months ago and I had some well-worn excusesI work in the public interest, I do other volunteer work, and University Friends Meeting provides a safe place for homeless men to sleep each night. Although this is all true, it is also very distant from actually interacting with anyone who is poor.

So I have started looking into volunteer opportunities in my area. As soon as I started doing this, the voice in my head started nagging me, reminding me that I am already doing too much and made a conscious decision not to take on any more. But then I remembered that my resolution was not that I would say no to everything, but that I would not agree to do anything else unless I felt a clear leading, and I do.

When I was young, my mother would volunteer once a month for F.I.S.H., a program that delivers food to people who didn't have enough to cover groceries. I dreaded going with her because we would get lost in unfamiliar neighborhoods and I felt awkward delivering the food to strangers. Seeing people who were so grateful to have a bag of groceries left a lasting impression on me, though, and I'm glad Mom made me go.

My parents sometimes joke that they don't know how they raised four bleeding-heart liberals, but really it's their own fault. When I have children of my own, I hope I can give them the same sense of social responsibility that my parents gave me. In the meantime, I hope Emily and Myles don't mind too much if I try some of these ideas out on Simon.

1 comment:

  1. I know you've been cultivating this desire for a while, because I remember you saying a while ago that we should volunteer together at the Ballard Food Bank, but the timing was bad and we never followed through. I look forward to seeing what you decide to pursue!


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