December 12, 2012

Teaching Generosity

Filed under: Christmas Time!,Think About It!,Youth Rights — Katrina @ 11:57 pm

This morning on the radio, they were talking about a little boy who recently donated all his birthday presents to charity. Then his town was so impressed with his generosity that they threw him a big birthday party with a zillion more presents… all of which also went to charity.

It’s a lovely story of generosity, based on that little bit about it I heard.

But then the radio guy, awestruck by this kid, remarked, “That’s just amazing. How do you even teach this sort of thing?”

That’s when my brain got stuck for a moment (not the best time, as I was navigating rush hour traffic!), from all the things I found very wrong with that statement.

For one, the question itself implies that “teaching this sort of thing”, to this extent, is even desirable. Don’t get me wrong. They were this boy’s toys and thus his to do as he wished, and what he wished was for them to be donated. And it was certainly an extremely kind thing to do. But it’s such an extreme level of selflessness, and to teach it would be to imply that this is a general expectation, just good manners, as opposed to the above and beyond gesture it is.

Also, because you know I’m going to bring this up, again, he’s a child. His selflessness like this is seen as amazing and adorable, while, had he been twenty or thirty years older, people would have just thought he was crazy, perhaps even threatening. Why? Because when an adult your own age makes some sacrifice, you feel like you’re expected to do the same, and you just plain don’t want to. But it’s just fine for kids to do it, and they should be encouraged in a way adults wouldn’t be. Why? Because you don’t identify with them. Almost everything about their lives is trivial and expendable. It’s easy for an adult to believe a kid’s Nintendo DS is just some useless gadget they don’t really need, when they’d probably slice off their own legs before they’d give up their iPhone. So it’s not only seen as the easier sacrifice for children to give so much for charity, but it’s even seen as the “right” way to be.

And the question itself, of teaching generosity. Again, that implies it even needs to be specifically taught. That an adult who wants a child to be this extremely generous needs to preach it in some way. In fact, that’s bullshit. Generous kids generally have generous parents. There needs to be some strong example of this behavior going on already. Want kids to be generous or any other desirable trait? Be generous yourself. Be the good person you expect your kids to be, rather than preaching it to them while sitting back and clutching your own hedonism and avarice.

All this talk over how amazing this kid is, that he got it right, that all kids should be taught to be like this, but how willing are you to give up your stuff? Perhaps everything you get for Christmas this year? Yeah… that’s what I thought.

But by all means expect kids to do it. Good enough, right? 🙄

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