I think I wrote a long time ago about our family change jar. It is a "helping jar" and the change that is accrued is donated to a charity that we vote on as a family annually. I'd love to have people think that teaching altruism to my children was my first goal. The sad reality is that this came about to stop the pouncing on pennies in parking lots and screaming "It's mine! All mine!" Which of course was answered by someone else saying that it was really theirs, they saw it first etc, etc. Suffice it to say some very not pretty moments birthed the helping jar.
But from that evil primordial ooze, a great tradition evolved. I have loved the fact that we enjoy watching the change mount up. It is one of those jars that counts what you put in so that is helpful as it inspires us all to see how much we can add. I enjoy the debates that occur about who or what to help each year. Everyone is pretty passionate about their ideas and there is a lot of good discussion/debate, despite the wide range of ages.
This year we ammassed $63.00 which is pretty impressive. Actually it was probably enhanced because I hadn't had time to get the jar to the bank for counting until this past Saturday. And while the charitable organizations names were going up on our dry erase board for consideration, a new and different idea floated by.
A friend of ours was looking for a micro-loan to replace an engine in his truck. This young man is a smoke jumper out west, and the seasonal nature of his work makes it hard for him to get traditional financing. The micro-loan concept is something I have personally supported on www.kiva.com I explained the idea to the kids, and we left the 4 choices on the dry erase board. Several hours later I came into the kitchen for tea and found 4 different colored circles drawn next to William's name.
I liked that the kids were thoughtful about their choice and that they were willing to share their reasoning. Several felt the fact that our money could do "double duty" going out to help someone else when this loan is repaid was a deciding factor. (that person may also think that means if they find money it does not need to go in the helping jar but I am going to ignore that possibility for now!) Someone else voted for him because they decided that doing something as dangerous as smoke jumping should be supported. Someone else voted because they think everyone should have a way to get to work.
I don't have a lot of spare money--even less with a young man going off to college in the fall. But I also believe that I can share a little, and that I can teach my kids to do this. And I hope that William gets an engine for his truck and comes home safely from the fires he will fight.