Every December, I take my turn standing in front of Trader Joe’s and ringing the Salvation Army bell, along with my fellow Sunrise Rotarians. It’s an hour of camaraderie, chatting with shoppers and thanking folks for donations to the kettle. Some years, I bring the dog in his holiday finest because he draws attention.
My response to bell ringing for charity is a far cry from my reaction to all the year-end solicitations that come in the mail from every organization to which I’ve ever donated. All those earnest pleas for help become a nagging irritation when I have so much to do and less than unlimited funds. Do you remember that old parental whine, “Do you think dollars grow on trees?” That’s how I want to respond to the mail these days.
Out in the frosty air it is not necessary to cajole or beg. People know the Salvation Army and its good work. Nobody is asking people to slip a $100 bill into the kettle, although that probably happens from time to time. They reach into their pockets or purses for change or a few dollars and hand it over merrily. I especially enjoy the small children who approach with a fistful of coins while parents look on proudly.
Parents who give their children coins to donate to the kettle are teaching them to be generous. The little ones may not know anything about the Salvation Army, but they know they are doing something good.
That leads me to wonder about kids of all ages and their knowledge of the family finances. I grew up at a time when even my mother didn’t know much about the family budget. Do your kids know how much you donate to charities? If you pledge to a religious organization, do your children know how much and why? When you share your donation plan with the whole family, you are modeling generosity and caring. Just imagine if we raised a whole generation that valued giving to worthy causes. If your children want to emulate your giving and they have their own money, they can be generous, too.
In addition to the Salvation Army kettle, there are other opportunities to give small amounts of money. Napa Valley CanDo’s second annual Give!Guide (NapaValleyGive-Guide.org) accepts donations of $10 or more to any of 40 Napa County nonprofits. You can donate online or send a check. If your child prefers to empty his piggy bank at the office of a local charity, I’m sure the gift will be accepted with a smile, but call first.
Perhaps your child would like to give away outgrown clothing or toys. Some of the agencies in the Give!Guide accept donations of goods; Community Projects at 715 Franklin St. will sell your used items and donate the money raised.
So talk to your kids about generosity this holiday season, and if you see me standing in front of Trader Joe’s ringing the bell, please drop some change in the kettle.