Hey Kids: Stop begging and GET A JOB.

I completely understand it: times are hard, the economy is bad, there isn't a lot of "spare" money floating around. You do what you have to do to get by, I get it. But really you didn't have any better idea than standing out side the grocery store and asking for spare change?

No, I'm not talking about the homeless, I'm talking about kids' sport teams, extra-curricular clubs, schools and church organizations. Today I was walking out of our local grocery store, when I was accosted by three 7-8 year old girls decked out in cheerleading uniforms. They shoved a colorful coffee can in my face and shouted "Would you care to donate to the mysuburbantown Cheerleading Club?" in unison.

Are you picturing it? There I am, cart loaded with groceries, crabby toddler in the seat sucking on my keys, grouchy pre-schooler begging to stop for an ice cream on the way home and now I have to fend off the attack of the killer cheerleader-ettes. I shake my head and put on a grin "I'm so sorry, but no thanks!"

On the way to the car ThePrincess asks: "Why didn't you give them any money mommy? Don't we have any?" That got me thinking. I have no problem given to charity. In fact, I LOVE it. I will be the first in line to fundraise at cancer walks or for the local animal shelter. I suck it up and buy popcorn, cookie dough, chocolate bars and wrapping paper from the smiling faces that show up at my door. I am always a contributor to the PTA silent auction and place my scholastic book orders religiously. We tithe to our church, save Campbell's soup labels and boxtops for education, and donate to goodwill and women's shelters. I even use coupons to buy extra groceries with the sole intent of donating them to our food bank.

I am not a scrooge. I truly believe that charitable giving is extremely important but there is something about this methodology of fundraising that bothers me. No, it doesn't just bother me. I ABSOLUTELY HATE IT. My response to ThePrincess: "No honey we have plenty of money, but I don't just give it away. They would have to do something to earn it. Just like you and your allowance, there is no such thing as a free-ride."

These kids were old enough to be holding a car wash, running a bake sale, even doing a "bowl-a-thon" instead of standing outside a grocery store with their hands out. To me, this is sending the WRONG message: "If you need something, don't bother working for it. Just ask someone else for a handout."

It is so irritating.

As much as it sucks to buy overpriced candy-bars or pay $5 for a shoddy car wash, it is the motivation behind it that is really important. You wanna go to Summer Camp? Your soccer team needs new uniforms? DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT. Run a lemonade stand, do one of those "fundraising nights" at your local restaurant, sell coupon books, wash some dogs.. It doesn't matter what, just do something in exchange for the money. That is how life is going to treat you when you grow up. You want some cash? Better drag your butt to work, since the last I heard there was no such thing as a money tree.

Now, to play devils' advocate: Yes, there are some days where I think "I would rather just write them a check so they quit harassing me with all this junk" especially in the case of my younger daughter who doesn't even comprehend the idea of pre-school fundraiser, but I still understand the rationale, they want you to feel they doing something to deserve the money, to earn it. Plus this is more than just about where the money comes from. I do believe kids take away important lessons when they are expected to help raise funds with their OWN actions. I personally remember going door to door with Girl Scout cookies, or standing in a steaming hot parking lot washing cars for hours on end. I was even the "top seller" of candy bars for my 7th grade softball team. Not only did the team get new dugouts, but I walked away with a new bike. It was something I remember with pride. I am pretty sure I wouldn't feel the same way if I had to stand, embarrassed and self-conscious, outside a grocery store asking people for spare change.

And so I am vowing today that if my kids join a club that suggests they solicit donations in front of the local Wal-Mart, I will instead write the club a check to cover my daughter's contribution and she will be outside washing my car to pay it off.. Since there is no way I'm subjecting other people to the sheer annoyance that I put up with today. But more importantly, I want my kids to have a sense of pride in what they accomplished, not a sense of entitlement, embarrassment or self-pity.

God gives every bird its food but He does not throw it into its nest." ~JG Holland American Poet (1819-1881)

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