Already Learning to Help!
THUNDER BAY – HEALTH – My son Michael, who is three, loves to visit County Fair Mall.
Well, there are a few reasons.
Number 1. There’s a library. With lots of cool books. And trains. And a kitchen. And the librarians give you stickers. So, all in all, an excellent place to visit when you’re three (really though, for all ages).
Number 2. My husband gets his hair cut there and Michael likes to go with him to watch. Good father-son bonding.
Number 3. And probably the most important reason, if you’d ask Michael. Inside the Mall is one of those contraptions that lets you plonk in change and watch it twirl around until it spins faster and faster and faster and then drops into the hole. Michael is amazed and enchanted with this and always asks to drop change into it when we are there.
One day, as we were standing by the side, watching our change disappear, he turned to me and asked, “Where does it go?”
I usually try to be pretty honest with my answers and in my head I tried to figure out exactly how to explain charities and what they do to my three-year old son.
I started off with, “Well the money all goes into the hole,” figuring that was step one in my explanation. “And then someone comes to collect it and the money helps people who need some special help right now in their lives. They might need some money to buy some food, or need it to buy clothes or help out at their house somehow.”
I continued on, “Our family is pretty lucky that we are able to afford good food to eat and clothes to wear and that we have money for special treats sometimes, but there are some families that need some extra help.”
He looked up at me, seemed to ponder what I’d said, and replied, “So the money goes to people who need some help.”
“Yup,” I said.
“So we are helping people,” he said again.
“Exactly,” I confirmed.
We finished off the conversation, but as we exited the Mall that day, it got me to thinking. When do we teach our children about giving? And by that I mean charitable giving, not gifts for birthdays or holidays.
I’ve noticed among my peers that many parents are asking for donations to a charity of choice instead of birthday presents for their children. Certainly, the Health Sciences Foundation has been a recipient of generous gifts from kids who have decided to donate funds instead of receive gifts. I hope they and their parents feel really good about making that choice. It’s one that helps hundreds of people each day as they access medical equipment at our Health Sciences Centre.
As simple as our conversation was (at least, I hope), I feel like what we discussed is starting to lay the groundwork for Michael to understand what it means to give. While he doesn’t need to understand the intricacies of donations right now, I hope it gives him some perspective into why our family does make charitable donations. And I hope that the kids (and their parents) who give up birthday presents can continue to grow their philanthropic spirit. Teaching our children early about giving is a wonderful gift that we can give them.
Each time I’m back at the Mall, watching our spare change spin around, I’m thankful that we have spare change to give. I also think about how every single cent counts. My son is making sure of that.
Heather Vita is the Manager, Marketing and Communications for the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Foundation. She is married with two children and is currently on maternity leave.