Tuesday, April 1, 2008

How Much is Too Much?

My daughters' are collecting change for a school fundraiser. Before you moan and groan, not another school fundraiser, this one is different. They aren't actually raising money for the school, but rather for a charity. All proceeds are going to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, and will help people who are sick with blood cancer.

Each day, my husband and I, and anyone else my daughters' feel comfortable asking, are dumping our change into their collection so they can donate it to their respective classes. My youngest recently asked if she could donate some of her own money, from her piggybank. Of course, I responded with a resounding yes and complimented her on her thoughtfulness and unselfishness.

Here's my dilemma. Her next question was could she donate twenty. "Just twenty cents," I asked. To which she responded, "No, twenty dollars."

Wow. That was a big surprise. Twenty dollars may or may not be a lot of money to you, but to most young kids in early elementary school, it's quite a bit.

Immediately I told my daughter no, that twenty dollars was too much for her to donate. I asked her how much she had in her piggybank. She had two twenty's and some change. I explained to her that if she donated a twenty to the charity that would be half of all of her money. She understood, but she wanted to do it anyhow. I left it that we would talk about it later. I secretly hoped the subject would be forgotten, or that she would change her mind.

It wasn't, and she didn't.

Then I got to thinking. How poorly did I handle this whole situation? Exactly how much is too much, and who am I to make that decision? It is, after all, her money.

One of the most precious characteristics I would like to nurture in my kids is a giving spirit. Yet here my daughter comes to me, wanting to give away half of her money, and I respond negatively.

I've rationalized my behavior saying I was protecting her, that she didn't understand she would be giving away half, that she didn't comprehend the value of money. But she did understand, we talked about it.

The bottom line, I think, is this… my daughter has a warm, loving, and giving spirit already. It's not a seed I need to plant in her, and I suspect that is so of most young children. The trick then becomes not so much to cultivate this characteristic, as it is to prevent the weeds of self-centeredness from taking over. And in this society of "me," with advertisements running rampant that claim "you deserve it," this isn't always easy.