Friday, March 25, 2011

Could Less Be More?

We have been talking about ways to bring home the point for The Peanut that to whom much is given, much ought to also be expected.  And that helping others who are less fortunate is a choice we all ought to be making more often.

Now that she is 8, it seems a really good time to find more ways to bring that point home as her perspective on the world and her community widens, and her understanding and empathy begin to broaden a bit beyond "me" and "everyone else."

But how to best do that?

We already donate unused household items -- especially clothes and toys that she has outgrown -- to charity that we have her help to pick out every year.  We put together gift stockings at Christmas each year so that children who don't have toys can get something nice, and she loves helping with that.

And we donate money to local, national and international groups.  But not nearly enough, we feel, as it turns out, as we are reviewing our finances at the end of the tax year.

One of the things that is worrying for us is that, since we had The Peanut later in life when we were both already established professionals, she's been born into a family where she doesn't really want for anything.  That is both a blessing and a curse, as we are constantly struggling with how to make us and her happy without pushing the line over to rampant, thoughtless, rote consumerism without giving thought to what we are buying and why.

More importantly, we want to ask and we want her to ask where the money might perhaps better be used for a much more needed purpose.

So Mr. ReddHedd and I have been mulling a few ideas on how we can all work together on that sort of lesson, so that our child understands that charity begins at home...but it should never, ever stop there.

We're going to start with a discussion of "affluenza," a term coined by Vicki Robin and Joe Dominguez in their wonderful book "Your Money Or Your Life."

I've always thought that was a clever term, and I'll let the late Joe Dominguez explain a bit more in his own words:
Affluenza is that experience of no matter how hard you try to extract happiness out of material things, beyond a certain point that we call enough -- having your needs taken care of, having some comforts and even having some luxuries -- beyond that point of more spending, more material possessions are not going to make you happy. As a matter of fact, they erode your sense of well-being.
We want our child to be comfortable and happy, not spoiled and bratty.  Moreover, we want her to be a person who thinks about others and who reaches out a hand to help where and when she can.  To do that, we need to both model that behavior for her and also live in a way that all of us choose that together, and work on it together.

As we move forward with the discussion on what we want to do and why, and as our plans progress on how to work on this issue together as a family, I'll keep you all updated on what we've decided to do. We have a couple of ideas rumbling around that I'm really excited about, but they are still in the planning stages at the moment.

Much more on this to come...

(Photo by Christy Hardin Smith.)


TRex said...

Just do what my parents did. I went to summer-camp every year from when I was four to when I turned 16. Turned out later I'd been working in a cigarette factory, but it sure taught me the value of a dollar and how to get tar stains off your hands!

Christy Hardin Smith said...

Hi Honey! How the hell are you? Pardon me while I wipe the coffee off my keyboard....snort