"As we work to create light for others, we naturally light our own way." - Mary Ann Radmacher
The Empathy Gap
The Chronicle of Philanthropy just released a special report on "How America Gives." I've spent the past several days stewing over the findings, rather unwilling to accept the reality suggested by the numbers. In a nutshell, as we continue to climb out of the "Great Recession," there is evidence that the wealthiest Americans gave smaller portions of their income to charities during the lean years, while those with smaller incomes gave bigger shares. This may not come as a shock to some, but if we think about what lies beneath the numbers, we may want to ponder the kind of response that may be necessary.
The numbers alone should give anyone with a charitable heart pause. According to the Chronicle's report, the rich got richer during the Great Recession and simultaneously decreased their charitable giving, while the poor had the opposite response; the change in the share of income donated to charity for those earning between $25,000 and $50,000 a year INCREASED by 8.7% during the recession (2006 - 2012), while the amount donated by those earning over $200,000 DECREASED by 4.5%.
But beyond the pure numbers and what they mean for the financial support flowing to our nonprofit sector providing life-changing, and sometimes life-saving services (and there are several implications), they suggest a growing gap in our country's ability to relate to one other's realities. Vox.com did a piece in response to this study and a particular thought has stuck with me: "If the nation becomes more unequal and economically segregated — or, put another way, if Americans' incomes move apart and the rich and poor increasingly live apart physically — it becomes much easier for people to be blind to how people outside their own class are living."
It's happening. There are now data to support it. And as much as that notion concerns me, I know there are ways to turn it around. Empathy can be cultivated in children with relatively little effort. Small moments of service; honest, non-threatening conversations about what is happening in the world; and intentional, repeated exposures to the more global realities around them will wake up kids' natural inclination to care. All we have to do as parents is make that a box we check when we go through our daily list of "must do's" and we will create the next generation of Giving Kids, a generation that will figure out a new way of giving.
For an excellent summary of the findings, including MA specific rankings (which leave a lot of room for improvement), check out the Massachusetts Nonprofit Network's recent post or the Chronicle of Philanthropy's full report How America Gives.
The Power of a Small Act
I grew up in a small town in the Midwest, the kind of place where you look out for your neighbor. It's not done under the banner of "charity" or "philanthropy" most of the time. You do it because you know who's on the other end, and you care.
As the world population continues to migrate toward urban areas, it is easy to lose the sense of urgency and also the sense of familiarity that can spur us to take action. Often times we don't personally know the one on the other end. And while it might make it easier to go about our own business, does it make such acts any less important? I would argue no. If anything, it makes them all the more important. Those of us with the inclination to serve in small ways, have an even bigger obligation to lead by example, lest we all stay a little too "heads down" in our own little worlds, carved within these much larger ecosystems.
My parents still live in the small down I grew up in, where "take care of your neighbor" is a mantra still lived by. My mom forwarded me an inspiring story the other day from our little town. The lead character: a six-year old girl named Lilly, and her small red wagon. Lilly's parents responded to a community call put out in hopes of finding families to donate one meal a month to local residents. But Lilly had an even bigger idea. More than 1,000 donated items later, Lilly delivered her wagon full, with the help of her friends at her school.
Chances are that Lilly doesn't fully understand the lasting ripple of her act of kindness, borne out of her natural response to a need she saw in a community she loves. Chances are she will never forget that moment either, and that ripple will know no end. We each have that kind of opportunity before us, even when we don't immediately see it. And if we, like Lilly's parents, give our kids the support they need to execute these small acts, it won't just be our kids who are forever changed.
Read more about Lilly's story here.
PGK Action Bulletin - September
Welcome to the new PGK in Action portion of our site! Here we will highlight pictures and stories about kids giving back, insights from nonprofits on how they are benefitting from these young volunteers, news about PGK in the news, and other fun things.
If you’ve got something to share, we’d love to hear from you! Truth be told, this section will only be truly cool when our users and friends start sending us their stuff. You are out there doing good deeds and we want this to be a place where you can share that with the world! (You just never know who you may inspire.) All you have to do is send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tell us about your experience using the Project Giving Kids site, completing one of the activities you found here, participating in another service event at your school or with your family – whatever you’ve done to help others that has been special for you. If you have a picture or two of you in action, we’d love that too. We will periodically update the site with content we receive, so check back often and see if you can find yourself starring in the latest version of our site!
Food for Free’s Field of Greens harvesting project – Summer 2014
“One day I was on the computer doing some boring stuff. While I was on the device, my mom showed me this Project Giving Kids website. At first I thought that it was going to be more boring than the things that I had been doing. Right away I clicked on helping animals. For my project, my classmates and I donated all sorts of things to animals in need. It turned out that the website was not boring at all.” – Turner, age 9
Baby & toddler toy sorting and cleaning at Room to Grow – Summer 2014
“Doing activities with Project Giving Kids makes me feel like I’m a super hero. Because super heroes help other people and they feel good about themselves – and that’s how I felt.” - Hadley, age 10