This blog is the seventh of a 12-part series on ‘Parenting is a Journey’. Ignatius Fernandez also blogs at http://thechildisfatheroftheman.blogspot.in/.
On January 26, 2001, an earthquake of devastating proportions struck Gujarat (India). Responding to the crisis, Sister Marion, the Headmistress of St Ursula’s School, Chennai, appealed to her students to bring in what they could, for despatch to Gujarat. But she did not ask for any help from fifty children who were huddled in one room, slightly removed from the main building. These were poor children, drawn from slums, who were persuaded to get some schooling, with the incentive of food from school. One day, a little girl from this group gave Sister Marion some money, for Gujarat. Since Sister knew that the girl came from a desperately poor family, she asked her if she also had contributed. She nodded and said that her mother did not have money to give; so she decided to starve for a day to send the small money, so saved, to Gujarat.
How can we fittingly praise this woman in rags, who shows us what ‘giving’ is all about? The little girl had a lesson on charity, from her mother, etched in her memory, perhaps for life.
Are we teaching our children such lessons? Or, do we tell them that they may give only from the surpluses they generate? Do ‘giving’ and ‘sacrificing’ figure on our list of virtues that children should acquire, since we know that most children are selfish? Even in their late teens and early twenties, the thought of ‘self’ displaces all else.
In an American University, a professor conducted an interesting experiment. Students were asked to drop a dime into one of three boxes which were screened off, like voting booths. The first box read: INDIA; where a disease was ravaging the villages. The second box carried the label: FAMILY; who were in distress, with no money to buy food. The third box was marked: PHOTOCOPIER; which would make photocopying easier for the students. Of those in that class, 80% dropped the dime into the box marked ‘photocopier’, so that they benefited, not others.
Children put the label ‘mine’ to what they see and what they lay their hands on. Even siblings are excluded from ownership: My Pepsi, my gun, my doll and so on. It is for us parents to wean our children from selfish thoughts and habits, by seizing every opportunity to show them that ‘sharing’ is a better option to ‘clinging’.