Thursday, August 8, 2013

Letter from the Director: Nurturing Our Children to Help Others, A Worthy Investment

I received a call recently from the mother of a very special 6-year-old girl.  This child had decided that she wanted to create packs of needed items for homeless people, and so her mom called on her behalf.  When I mentioned she could collect and donate some of the items for us to pack and distribute, she said it was very important to her daughter that she assemble the packs herself.  I hung up the phone, wondering how such mature benevolence could come from a child so young.

Another group of kids had a lemonade stand this summer and decided that they should donate their hard-earned $14 to help Fishline.  Only one child held back a little, keeping a dollar for himself because it was just too hard to see it all go.  We received an envelope of dollars and quarters, a fortune to these kids and a treasure to us.

So many times, especially during the summer and the holiday seasons, children are the ones coming through our back door at Fishline with their arms loaded with donations.  They come as their family's ambassadors, representing the care and concern that their parents have expressed in their words or by their own example.  For others, volunteering is a way to learn the value of service - it's one of the fun aspects of summer at Fishline, watching so many youth working side by side with long-time volunteers.  

These are teachable moments that will have a lasting impact.  What can start out as a response to a gentle nudge from Mom and Dad can become a real habit as children grow and begin to make decisions about how they can be of service to the world.  It shouldn't surprise us when they surpass us, innovating and collaborating to address even the hardest challenges.

These humble beginnings are growing into a powerful force in our country and beyond.  In communities throughout the world, young people are affecting real change with their giving.  Web sites are now devoted to reporting and coordinating this grass-roots powerhouse. watches the trends and priorities of a whole generation who have grown up prosperous and want to use that prosperity to create equality around the world. gathers examples of kids of all ages who have taken it upon themselves to right a wrong or help someone who's hurting.  Take a moment and try to read that list of accomplishments without feeling proud and inspired - it's impossible.  There is even a Young Philanthropists Foundation, encouraging a new generation of givers.  What a hopeful way to see our future, in the hands of so many who want and will build a kinder, more inclusive world.

Locally, young people have many ways they can help other children who are not as fortunate. When shopping for school supplies, they can buy extras and donate them to Fishline's school supply program, helping to fill backpacks with glue sticks and paper and other items so hard to afford for many families.  Kids can donate food items to our Food for Thought program, ensuring low income children will have enough food for weekends when school lunches are not available.  Even donating clothes not needed or wanted anymore to Second Season might eventually reach needy children who we invite to shop for free as they prepare for the upcoming school year.

Nurturing a desire in our children to help others is an investment in a world free from want or disillusion. They can know that every act of giving, big or small, will make a difference. By entrusting our youth with the soul of our civilization and reminding them that a better world is in their grasp, we can rest assured that things can only get better from here on out.  

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