For a four-year-old obsessed with Cinderella, there is nothing more tantalizing than a $12 butterfly shaped broom and dustpan. My daughter has been saving for just such a gem for the past three months. She gets a dime for bussing her plate, and a quarter for setting the table. Sometimes we even pay her to "babysit" her little sister downstairs while we do relaxing things like dust bust the cheerios off the floor and load the dishwasher.
She collects her earnings in a jar. Whenever I pass that jar, I question our parenting. "What are we doing here?" I asked my husband one evening after she had finished counting her coins.
Answer: Raising a devoted little capitalist motivated by molded plastic.
The parenting websites advocate for star charts that end in healthy feel-good prizes. We potty trained with gummy bunnies. And then there is that jar. Help out around the house and get a coin. We are inadvertently teaching the art of Me Me Me, that there has to be something in it for you for it to be worthwhile.
I know other adults who were raised like this. As a professional fundraiser people respond to my line of work with, "Oh I could never do that. I could never ask people for MONEY." But people ask people for money all the time. What they mean is they can't ask for money if there is no plastic butterfly dustpan at the end of the exchange.
So this holiday season I'm taking a good hard look at where those "Oh I could never do thats" came from. Probably from houses just like ours where work is rewarded with shiny coins which we suggested be spent on themselves, or maybe on their little sister if it is the holiday season.
The grown up version of all this is Black Friday and Cyber Monday, and the grown up solution is #GivingTuesday. #GivingTuesday first emerged last year thanks to New York's 92nd Street Y. This year the national effort is joined by more than 6,500 partner organizations and businesses. Giving money on the big day is encouraged, of course. But so is giving back with your time, advocacy, and commitment to making the world a better place.
This holiday season, I'm embracing the shift. Forget electronics on sale and discount plastic toys. In our house, #GivingTuesday is becoming the important day that follows Thanksgiving. We give thanks for what we are grateful for, and then we give back to those in need with jars of coins or our time, or something a little more tax deductible from the grownups.
I want my daughter to grow up looking beyond her own princess themed fantasies, and into the world beyond. I want her work and her efforts to contribute to a whole that is greater than her own satisfaction.
On #GivingTuesday in my city, the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco (where I work) is inviting children to make holiday cards for isolated seniors and pack hygiene kits for the homeless. Those who can give money to support the JCCSF's Tikkun Olam (Repair of the World) efforts to help make the world a better place will do that, and those who can give their time will do that. Many people, including my family, will do both.
As for that butterfly dustpan, it's getting transferred right over to the Hanukkah bucket. I am grateful that I live a life where I can buy that indulgence for my child. My real job now is to make sure she knows the importance of using that dustpan to do a little cleaning and earn some coins for someone else.
This post first appeared on 3200stories.
This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post in celebration of #GivingTuesday, which will take place this year (2013) on December 3. The idea behind #GivingTuesday is to kickoff the holiday-giving season, in the same way that Black Friday and Cyber Monday kickoff the holiday-shopping season. We'll feature at least one post from a #GivingTuesday partner every weekday in November. To see all the posts in the series, click here; follow the conversation via #GivingTuesday and learn more here.
And if you'd like to share your own #GivingTuesday story, please send us your 500-850-word post to firstname.lastname@example.org.