I get asked frequently about how I foster a culture of giving and intentional focus on empowering others with my daughter, that transcends moments like Giving Tuesday and special events or campaigns.
Because giving once a year is easy. How though, do you empower youth to keep giving? To stay engaged. To stay interested?
My answer is that: "We talk."
My answer sounds nebulous and abstract. My answer sounds like it lacks focus and clarity about intentions, things that I know are essential to engaging youth in social good.
Except that it isn't. At all. You see, by talking, we are listening -- to the world around us, and then reflecting on questions, solutions and possibilities. We are digesting the information and at the same time keeping topics that are important to use... in our brain and in our heart.
My theory is that if we are not talking about the issues, chances are good that we are not thinking about the issues.
We don't always come up with solutions or actionable goals, but the more I talk with my tween about global healthy issues, education for girls around the world, food supplies and climate change... even in the little moments like walking down the streets of New York City when she notices people asking for money... those are the moments that will stick out, moments that we connected the reality that she sees around her to the reality of the global community.
Moments at the pediatrician's office when my I urge my tween to mention her efforts to support global vaccination programs to her pediatrician. Moments on a sleigh full of strangers in Montana where I start to mention my work, and my daughter interrupts and tells the entire group about how she raised enough money to vaccinate over forty children in developing countries against preventable diseases. She has learned that even just one conversation has the potential to have a ripple effect.
Next Steps: Empower Youth to Keep Giving
The truth of the matter is that there is more work to be done. There are myths to be dispelled that are barriers to creating long lasting change. There are girls that still need access to education. There are still neighborhoods and countries that live in extreme poverty, and where babies are born without the possibility of a healthy future.
It is still about talking. Because talking leads to action.
So for me, the next steps in advocacy for me are to continue to talk. To help youth know that talking can lead to action, and that even the actions of one person, matter.
For my daughter, the next steps are to continue to learn about the tools and resources that she has at her disposal that will help her talk. Social media, blogs. Her next steps are to read and listen more, to question and to brainstorm.
The truth is that as the mom to a nine-year-old, I envision that her goals and interest will change. She may decide that instead of supporting one effort, she wants to support another one. Lets be completely honest -- it is even possible that her interest could wane. To some degree, there is only so much that I can do. Except talk.
Talking, frequently and consistently, lets her know that it is important -- to me if not to her. It lets her know that no matter what she is doing from one day to the next, the foundation of what matters is still there.
To empower someone else, especially a tween or tween to keep giving means giving up control. As parents, we want to help "lead" our children. We want to help steer them in a direction that we think is good for them. The truth of the matter though is that the best we can do is to empower them by building a solid foundation of understanding through talking, and hope that they internalize the message and make it their own.