Orphan elephants and nagging parents

I have two young children and sometimes I worry that by working as a "professional giver" I will desensitize them to the needs of the world. Hearing your parent go on and on about nonprofit effectiveness is probably not how budding social activists are created, so this article from Slate was very much welcomed.

Pennies for Elephants

How to raise budding philanthropists.



Illustration by Nina Frenkel. Click image to expand.

On most Saturday mornings, I take my son Simon to Tot Shabbat at our synagogue. After the kids march around with stuffed red and blue Torah, they sing. One of my favorite songs is about tikkun olam, the Jewish concept of healing the earth. Upstanding morals, catchy tuneā€”all good. Except that there is one verse that has bothered me. It goes like this: "So give your time/ and give your penny/ lend a hand/ to help someone."

Give your time and lend a hand. Check. But give your penny? Was the lesson that a penny, which Simon at age 4 already knows has practically no worth, is all that you need to part with in order to fulfill your charitable responsibilities? Was the whole thing just a little too pat?

As I mulled over this without broaching my doubt with Simon (who was staging a revolt against Tot Shabbat and didn't need any encouragement), my older son, Eli, came home from school and told us that his second-grade class was raising money to adopt an orphaned elephant. Her name was Dida. She had fallen down a well in Kenya. To which I confess my first reaction was: an orphaned elephant? What about an orphaned child? They have a lot of those in Kenya. Not to mention in Washington, D.C., a lot closer to home. Read the rest here.

I'd love to hear your tips for raising young philanthropists and I'd also like to know what you thought of the orphan elephant stuck in a well?