Sunday, November 7, 2010
What do we teach our kids about poverty?
One billion people. One-sixth of the whole world. That's 1,000,000,000 people. How do we talk to our kids about this difficult subject?
Our 4 ear old goes to a Quaker preschool, so at school they discuss social justice issues and service to one's community, in ways little people can understand. I talk to my son about how some people don't have clean water to drink or a warm bed to sleep in, and that it is our job as fellow humans to try to help others however we can. And I guess the talking has paid off. For Halloween, the boy's school sent home little UNICEF collection boxes to take trick-or-treating. We didn't take the box trick-or-treating because there was just too much going on at the time. But we planned on putting the change in our cars in the box, , taking it to work, etc. When our son returned from collecting all his candy, we told him he could trade in candy for cash or prizes. He chose cash and received $5 for about 3/4 of his candy. I told him he could put it in his piggy bank or put it in the UNICEF box, he chose the UNICEF box. He said, "I want kids to have safe water to drink." I choked back tears. I am still beaming with pride.
So my lesson is that it is important to talk to our kids about the scary real world, in order to help them cultivate compassion and understanding. I don't want my white middle class American boys to think that everyone lives like them and has the same privilege. The vast majority of humanity does not. Four isn't too young to understand this. It's the perfect age to start a life of compassion and service.