The other day I was taking my eldest son to a doctor’s appointment and we took Public Transit as we usually do, since the office is right on the subway line. It was rush hour so somewhat on the crowded side, and there were several groups of youth canvasing asking passersby for change or tokens to help Toronto’s youth. We passed them on the way as we rushed to our appointment again on the way back to drop my son at school. This second group was younger children, a school group that were volunteering their time to fund raise.
As we passed them by headed towards the stairs to catch our train, I stopped mid stair. Sometimes we can get so caught up in the everyday rush of getting places or getting things done that we pass by opportunities. This is why I stopped. I reached into my purse and pulled out some money, giving it to my son to donate. He took it then hesitated, because it meant him going up the stairs and approaching someone he didn’t know, as well he said he was eager to get to school (nothing like a dentist appointment for doing that) I let him know that it was ok since we had missed the train anyway, and he then went and made the donation.
Of course I could have just done it myself. I really wanted my son to do it for several reasons:
1. I felt is was important for him to feel like he was taking action, helping others helping a cause. I had noticed him looking at the youth who were calling out their campaign with their T-shirts on “Help Toronto’s youth, your change can make changes happen”. I believe it is important for him to recognize and be grateful for what he has, that he is not in a position where he need this kind of help.
2. I wanted to push him a bit outside his comfort level by having him approach the volunteers himself with the hopes that he will feel confident to initiate this himself one day
3. I wanted to model the idea of taking time to notice what is happening around us and rather than be passive bystanders watching and not doing, I wanted him to remember to engage and participate fully in life, take opportunities to help when you notice them, however small.
4. I wanted the youth to feel heard, to encourage their efforts by listening to them and show them that we appreciate what they are doing by taking action and donating. I think that it is important important that youth who volunteer their time and effort feel that they are actually making a difference. Giving them a positive response helps ensure that they will continue to be active participants in change rather than discouraged bystanders who feel there is no hope.
5. When others see you donate for a cause I think it has a ripple effect. It makes it all the more easier for them to justify stopping and taking a few minutes to reach into their wallet, walk over and help out.
Giving a little bit of money may have been a “drop in the bucket”, but we can’t forget that each drop creates its own ripple. This was not just about helping through giving money. It was so much more than that: giving attention to our surroundings and what messages to pay attention to; giving our attention an appreciation to the youth who are taking their time to raise awareness; taking the time as little as it might be, yet still breaking the habit of just walking through crowds with blinders on; and finally by responding we potentially set off a ripple effect to the crowds who may be in “I can’t stop -have to get somewhere important” or “I am not going to pay attention to what is being asked of me because it doesn’t concern me” mode but then notice someone else taking action and stop and do something themselves.
Our actions are more powerful than we think. Hopefully it is the kind of power that brings other great things to life. Your children are watching. Everyday there are opportunities for change, lessons to be learned. When we take the time to take our blinders off and be open to seeing the opportunities and lessons life presents to us, our children will see them too.