Tips on teaching kids empathy and kindness pop up everywhere. Recently, my daughter, our dog, and I participated in the Committee on Temporary Shelter’s (COTS) fundraising walk, a perfect opportunity to find out more about how “fundraising” connects with kindness and empathy in an eight-year-old mind.
I did not involve her in the actual fundraising – I set up an online donation landing page, shared it on Facebook with friends and family, and hoped for the best. We did talk about why people would donate. She never asked how much, but she was concerned about meeting the goal (maybe because I told her if we did, we got a t shirt, perhaps a mistake.)
On the way to the event, we talked about COTS’s mission and why CLiF partnered with them on this event. We talked about how kids whose parents can not read with them might not know as many words and that the lack of vocabulary can make it harder for them to read and to learn as they get older. She seemed to understand the “word gap” concept, but typical for her age, she commented on own love of reading (while patting herself on the back for getting through Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.)
Along the walk, we visited shelters. I stayed outside with the dog, but she went in and toured around (and found all the treats). When I asked her to describe what she saw, she said how nice it was and she wondered about the bunk beds. While I am not sure what it says about her empathy, she did answer honestly that she could not imagine being in such an unsettled situation. We talked a little about how this would feel and what it might mean for someone’s behavior in school.
I wondered if the incentives – the shirt, the activities, the Ben and Jerry’s, the candy – would be what kept her going, and what she would remember. While she does talk about the ice cream, I think this event, with its meaningful interaction with their sites and mission and its lighthearted atmosphere, might have been ideal introduction to philanthropy. She left with an awareness of the organization and its core goals and of how funds raised by us and others directly supported the places she visited. I hope it laid the groundwork for thoughtful donations (of time and money) to organizations with missions to which she can relate. Kindness and empathy manifest in many forms, many of which she saw in the volunteers, walkers, and vendors. She will wear that t-shirt with pride!