The Good Place starlet Kristen Bell is featured in the November 2016 issue of Parents Magazine.
A few weeks ago, I was shopping with my toddler when she loudly declared that she loves giraffes. A mother and her 8-year-old overheard and approached us. The mom said her daughter had a toy giraffe at home and since she was learning the concept of giving, she’d like to give it to my daughter. We exchanged addresses and the following week we got this little stuffed giraffe in the mail. My kid instantly fell in love, named it “Carson,” and sleeps with it every night.
That little unexpected act of giving planted the seed for us to start thinking about what toys we owned that could possibly have another life in another home. Now we have a “one in, one out” rule. If we bring home a new puzzle, my toddler has to give an old one away, and she’s pretty good at this, despite how young she is. Either directly, the way the generous mother and daughter did with her giraffe, or through charities, there are so many ways to give.
I know the concept and purpose of charity can be somewhat obtuse for young kids, and even for some of us non-kids, but I like to think of it this way: If someone in our family needs something, what do we do? We help. I think of all people as my kids. How would I want them to be treated? I usually ask myself that question and the answer guides my conduct. I think everyone has a great internal kindness barometer, if you can awaken it. I’ve had plenty of great examples of kindness in my life. The way I see it, we are all on Team Human, and I tell my kids that the world is just our extended family.
I think teaching children this concept is important for two reasons. First, it helps them to look past boundaries. I don’t want my kids to be restricted by country lines, religious beliefs, or languages. I want them to see the whole of mankind: It makes everything less scary, more accessible. And if they see the world as boundless, then their achievements will follow suit.
To me, charity doesn’t mean giving things away into a void. It means sharing with a purpose. When I bring my girls along with me to volunteer and try to teach them to share toys with each other, I want them to learn that it’s not just about sharing stuff, it’s the sharing of experiences.
One day we will send Carson the Giraffe to go live with another child. And in the meantime, we’ll continue to help everyone we can, even people we don’t know. It’s our only way to ensure that Team Human wins the race.
The Good Place airs Thursdays at 8:30/7:30 on NBC.
Photo Credit: Ari Michelson for Parents Magazine