My maternal grandparents were called Gwam and Gappy by their grandchildren. Yes, somewhat strange names, which only an infant grandchild could come up with. But the names suited them because they were personable, extremely caring and very family oriented. All of these characteristics were combined in a special club they created for their 24 grandchildren, called Club 21.
When each of us turned 21, a letter arrived, with a cheque. The birthday card said, "Happy birthday, here is a birthday cheque, but it is not for you!" The letter went on to explain about all of the less fortunate people in the world and the need for each of us to help others. My grandmother pointed out that as part of the next generation, we needed to appreciate our responsibility to help others. She informed us that it was our obligation to help those along the road of life who needed our help.
We were each instructed to choose five charities, and to give an equal portion of the cheque. We then had to write a report to our grandparents explaining which charities we chose, and why. Once this task was completed, we were allowed into Club 21 where we then received another birthday cheque to spend on ourselves. This was our birthday present, with strings attached.
The point of telling you this is twofold. One, it worked! This upbringing by a very caring and charitable family lead me to be equally involved in charity work, and giving back.
Second, the behavior of giving and volunteering is mostly a learned characteristic. In a survey of 1,000 Canadian adults conducted by Ipsos, I noted that people who grew up being taught to give back, and clearly knew their moral obligation to help those in need do indeed give and volunteer more than average. I have seen similar findings from American research as well.
As we look at stagnant and somewhat decreasing numbers of charitable donors in society, I think one of the contributing problems is that adults are not openly teaching and mentoring the next generation to be giving. With decreasing religiosity in the developed world, we are not getting our "lesson" each week to be more considerate and charitable. In this vacuum, grandparents, parents, aunts and uncles need to be teaching, mentoring and inspiring the next generation to be givers.
There is plenty of room in "Club 21." Do you know a grandchild, daughter or son, niece or nephew, neighbour, or young friend who you could inspire?
My grandparents had their particular "rules" for joining their Club 21, but naturally you can do whatever you wish, at any age, with any amount of money to inspire a young adult. But, please, do because the Club needs more members.
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.