Like many parents, I am attempting to raise a child who is a well-rounded, well-adjusted teenager. I am fortunate that he is generally in a happy-go-lucky mood most of the time, except when he gets overtaken by some surly, sour-headed, evil spirit who sits grumpily on our couch for hours at a time playing X-Box, snarling at all non-virtual persons who come within his vicinity.
But, for the most part, he is growing up as I would like, all except one area: Altruism. Apparently, there isn’t a single drop of it in his blood.
Now, of course, this is totally my fault as a parent. We started off strong…I remember when he was five and wrapped up some of his never-played-with, barely used toys and gave them away. He was so proud of his generosity. But, it all went downhill from there. Perhaps it is a result of being an only child? Perhaps it is that he rarely sees his parents doing much except for the annual end-of-year-tax-deduction giving? Perhaps this materialistic-driven world is working against me?
Now, my son isn’t exactly as spoiled as he sounds, as he only gets “wants” on his birthday and Christmas. Anything else he “wants,” he has to buy for himself. And, my son gets no allowance, but must clean windows, etc. for money. He is also an expert numismatist, scrounging the bottom of cars, under beds, raiding Grandma’s purse. He keeps all his coins in a big jar that we take to the local Publix to have counted and changed into bills. He is pretty choosy in spending his money, researching the best deals on the internet long before he buys.
But, when my husband told him he must set aside 10% (for the easy math) to go to charity, well, that pile of money never seemed grow very much. (Think more like 0.01%.) Somehow he just couldn’t bring himself to part with the money when there were X-Box games to be had!
When he was a fifth grader, I remember one of his friends, a sweet little boy named Ryan, saying, “I’m not having presents this year at my birthday party. I want everyone to bring a toy to donate to the needy.” As my heart melted at Ryan’s declaration, my son said disgustedly, “Why in the world would you want to do that?”
Yep, not only is there no altruistic blood in my son, but there’s not a single altruistic bone in his body either!
Whatever the reason for my son’s anti-philanthropic attitude, I am attempting to turn the tide. During the recent cold snap, Coalition for the Homeless of Central Florida tweeted they were short on blankets. “Aha!” I thought. A prime opportunity to teach my son how important it is to help others in need!
So, we took his jar of coins, emptied it out for around $60 at Publix, drove to Walgreens where they had two blankets on sale for just $7. We bought 14 blankets total and then began driving to the Coalition.
My son was torn, because he knew he was doing the right thing, the important thing, the politically correct thing, but deep down he was really upset about his money disappearing. To his credit, though, he didn’t voice his anger, but rather sat resolutely silent as we drove the streets of Downtown Orlando.
As we approached the Coalition, there was a large group of men gathered on the street corner, standing around talking. Grocery carts toted some of their belongings, and mismatched coats, hats, and shoes presented a rag-tag collection of individuals. I observed my son as he eyed them. We turned into the center, which was very crowded due to the cold weather.
We carried the blankets inside, and my son still didn’t speak but rather noticed the different assortment of people: young men and women, grandparents, middle-aged citizens, and even several children.
Afterwards, my son was quiet for much of the ride home. I finally asked what was on his mind. “There are kids my age there,” he said, and suddenly I realized his silence was not out of a sense of loss for his money anymore, but rather for those children.
This series of events happened to take place right before the Coalition’s 4th Annual Celebration was announced: An Evening with the Men in Blue.
This event pays tribute to the Orlando Magic for over 15 years of dedicated support of the Coalition and to recognize their extraordinary contributions to the community. (What a great example for my son!)
Presented by Baker Hostetler LLP—the firm of Ryan’s dad ironically enough…no wonder Ryan already has such a developed sense of altruism!—this event will feature an exclusive show by Blue Man Group. The evening will begin with a reception hosted by NBA City Restaurant, followed by the Blue Man Group at the Sharp Aquos Theatre.
When my son heard I was attending this ultra-cool event, he said excitedly, “Can I go?” I explained that I was there covering the event as “press” in order to blog and tweet about it, and so he couldn’t go. But, we made a deal: If he found a way to support a group—and I told him he had to be the one to decide what he wanted to support and how he was going to support it—then I would definitely take him to a similarly exciting event next year. He readily agreed.
Is this bribery? Maybe. Will this encourage a philanthropic attitude and somewhere along the way it might become a real altruistic feeling within himself? Hopefully. Only time will tell. (Teenagers…they are more difficult than they look!)
If you would like to join me for this special evening on Thursday, January 21, from 6:00 p.m. to 9:45 p.m. at Universal CityWalk, tickets and sponsorships are still to be had.
Sponsorship opportunities are available at varying levels, starting at only $150 for an individual ticket. You can contact Debbie Leon at 407.426.1265 or firstname.lastname@example.org for more information. Be sure to check out the An Evening with the Men in Blue Facebook event page.
As for my son, time will tell, but hopefully he will take note of the good work the Orlando Magic does and perhaps begin to do some himself!