My girls each have three piggy banks. In an effort to teach them about the value and the power of money, Bubba and I started an allowance program about a year ago that requires them to 'feed' each of these piggy banks every week.
Although it sounds like a lot of money, each of them receives $3.00/week. One dollar goes into each of the piggy banks. There is a "spend" bank, into which they are allowed to dip any time they wish (with parental veto, of course). The second one is designated "save" and requires them to have some sort of plan for the contents. The final bank is for sharing and a few weeks ago as I walked into my eldest daughter's room I noticed it was outgrowing its boundaries. Sitting the girls down one Sunday morning, we talked to them about how they might like to distribute this money.
My oldest daughter didn't need even a moment to ruminate. She immediately asked me to donate her entire stash to a local animal rescue facility. Two years ago her class visited the sanctuary and met the animals who lived there. They saw two monkeys whose aggressive behavior had gotten them kicked out of the local zoo, a blind juvenile raccoon whose mother had abandoned it, exotic pets people had bought for their children and discarded when they discovered how difficult they were to care for (wallabies, pygmy goats, miniature potbellied pigs), and other creatures who had been found by hikers to be wounded or diseased or dying or otherwise in need of help. This place made such an impression on my daughter that she had been searching for a way to help them short of moving in.
My youngest was both astonished by the large amount of money she had collected to share and dismayed at the relatively small buying power it represented. Fortunately, the answer presented itself in Monday's mail. We received a donation form from a local homeless shelter, asking us to provide holiday dinners for families in need. The paperwork stated that $20.00 would feed 18 people a warm, filling, healthy meal and the thought of helping entire families proved incredibly attractive. We immediately filled out the form and mailed off a check. As we sat down to eat our dinner tonight, my daughter sat up a little straighter at the thought that there might be other children who were doing the same thanks to her.
As a family who is incredibly blessed with a safe, warm home and every material good we could wish for, we have always taught our children to be thankful for what they have. We routinely donate our used clothing, always give food to the food bank, and place gifts under the giving tree at Christmas every year. Asking the girls to be responsible for their own generosity this year empowered them in a much more personal way. As the thank-you notes came in today's mail from the girls' respective charities the girls' faces were glowing with pride. As I tucked my youngest in tonight, she caught sight of the other two piggy banks sitting atop her dresser, dollar bills protruding out the top.
"Mom? Is it too late to write another check to the shelter?"
She says it is so close to Christmas that she can't think of any toys or books she wants to spend her money on. She'd rather buy more dinners for homeless families. I am so filled with this loving spirit right now that I can't imagine anything better.