“It is one of the beautiful compensations of this life that no one can sincerely try to help another without helping himself.”
~Ralph Waldo Emerson
Under the best of circumstances, philanthropy benefits both the benefactor and the beneficiary.
But sometimes charitable efforts can go horribly awry. Mix in a little human vanity, and the results can be even more tragic.
Judith Lasker describes a classic case of a tragic charitable outcome: orphanage visits. Why? The end result:
- Orphans forming short term ties that are repeatedly broken.
- Orphanage owners running money making scams.
- Un-screened visitors putting orphans at risk.
- Owners maintaining sub-optimal conditions to drive more donations.
- Draining funds from other more effective methods.
Judith challenges her readers: “Would you volunteer abroad if you had no cameras with you?”
All of which leads to two thoughts you’ll want to keep in mind when choosing charitable efforts with your kids:
- Beware unintended consequences. Do the research. Will your efforts perpetuate or even deepen the problem for the beneficiaries?
- Beware vanity. Maintain focus on the recipient. It’s not about you. Ironically, the less it’s about you, the better you and your kids will feel. Note the key word “sincereley” in Emerson’s opening quote.
So before you engage your kids in a hands-on philanthropy exercise, ask yourself the hard question: are you making a difference or a photo opp?
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