And thus the door opened to talk to my children about philanthropy, empathy and responsible citizenship.
At the time we lived in a small Indiana town and as each of my three children turned 15 they headed to the nearby grocery store for their first jobs as baggers, clerks and eventually office managers. They were introduced to the world of clocking in, payroll taxes, and customer service.
They were also introduced to United Way.
“So they take money out of each of my paychecks and it helps people with no houses and no food,” my son continued. “What do you think I should do?”
So we talked about the classmate who sat next to him in Algebra class who wore the same pair of jeans day in and day out. One of us mentioned the elderly lady that walked the downtown streets with her push cart and didn’t have a place to stay. We spoke about driving by our local food bank and seeing people lined up waiting for the doors to open.
Then we talked about what if that was our family. We had come close. I struggled as a single parent and money was tight and life was tough.
And we talked about what a difference even the change in our pockets could make to someone who needed a gallon of milk or a bottle of cough syrup.
“So what do you think you should do?”, I asked my son.
My children, now grown and with children of their own, continue to give to United Way. I’m confident they’ll have this same discussion with their children when their kids start their first jobs.