What She’s Learning

My daughter, in first grade, is suddenly learning things that make her seem a little bit grown up to me.

On Monday, she bound me to my word with a pinky promise.

Last night, in deciding a contest with her brother, the eenie, meenie, miney mo chant ended with a “bounce back.”

Yesterday, in school, she discovered the Magic 8 Ball, which she promptly asked:

“Can I fly?”

Yes–definitely.

“Am I a real spy?”

Yes-definitely.

“Will I be a CIA agent when I grow up?”

Outlook good.

Of course she was ecstatic about the predictions since her life these days consists of codes and secret notebooks and solving mysteries.

But she also came home with a small box, distributed to all students from the Holy Childhood Association, which was to be used to collect coins during Lent.  The idea is like Greg Mortenson‘s Pennies for Peace, but faith-based.  To be perfectly honest, I have reservations about mission work–I don’t believe that everyone is called to believe in the same way, nor that everyone is even called to believe, but I also know that terrific work is done in some missions to provide food, schools, homes, education, etc., and so I find the fundamental idea of the coin collection sound:  ask children to donate in a way that is manageable and tangible for them, with their own money, knowing that every coin they donate will make a real difference in other children’s lives.

I love that our school has regular service projects like this, where children contribute in community with their peers.  They understand that serving others is an important part of civic duty, that being aware of the larger world is a fundamental aspect of being human, and that their actions can absolutely make a difference.    I like that the message we try to support at home is supported explicitly by the school.

Of course, I am not arguing here for parochial or faith-based education for all (far from it), but I am suggesting that our experience offers two important premises for raising children with an ethic of service:  1) find a community, even a small one, perhaps only one or two other families, who can support your civic values and with whom you can volunteer/donate/act and 2) teach your children to donate directly–money or goods–in a way that makes sense for your family.

The side of my daughter’s box reads:  $3 buys 75 pencils for a mission school. $4 buys bread for ten children for one week. $5 busy mile for one child for a month, and Mortenson’s daughter puts it this way in the Pennies for Peace video:

My daughter is not selfless, nor would I describe her as an especially spiritual child, but she can be very thoughtful.  Immediately upon assembling the box, she went to her bank and collected $2 which she promptly dropped in her box without comment.   And then I remembered that each week, she brings her pink wallet to church to donate 25 cents, which I have never asked nor reminded her to do.  It seems like a small amount, but it is her money, and she does it unbidden, and it is, in fact, 25% of her weekly allowance,  which is far more than her father and I give.

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