Yesterday I had the opportunity to work at Munster High School's "Reality Store." It is an event for Freshmen in which they are assigned a life situation (married, single, kids, job, etc), and then must create a monthly budget and live within their means.
I, of course, worked the charity booth, in which I invited people to give to charity. It was a fascinating experience. First, the organizers of the event had the charity booth located about 2/3 of the way through the event --- other booths, such as food, transportation, housing, lawyers, etc were all before they would get to the charity booth. What is interesting is it continued the often held notion of seeing charity as giving our leftovers, one we have satisfied all of our needs(wants?). Many of the kids would perpetuate that stereotype by saying they would come back after they saw what they had left over.
Second, often heard phrase was: "Do I have to?" as in --- Do I have to give to charity? No, it was voluntary, unlike most of the other items that they were required to budget (as it should be!)
Third, they had a list of suggested charities that the youth could give to. One of the items was "religious organization". They had offered suggested gifts to the various organizations (but more on that later.) What was fascinating to me was, of the 150 to 200 youth that I saw one 2 (TWO) wanted to give to "religious organizations." Unfortunately, (or fortunately depending on your point of view) one of the two was my daughter. The youth were happy to donate to the Humane Society (probably the biggest recipient) but wanted nothing to do with their churches. What are we teaching out children . . .
Fourth, as I mentioned earlier the organizers of the event had offered suggested donations for various organizations (usually in the $20 range), I suggested to the woman who was working the table with me that we hid the suggested amounts and see what happens. IT WAS AMAZING! While the gifts were to the same organizations, they amounts increased. My guess was the average gift after our "experiment" was close to $200 per student. When allowed to be generous on their own without being given an out the really stepped up to the plate!
Fifth, the other thing that we pondered as we worked the table was: is there a relationship between the students that give and their parents giving to charitable organizations, or the reverse. Did students who walked right past the booth, or asked if they "Had to give" had that attitude modeled at home. No way to test that, but it made for an interesting discussion.
One final note, the other student who wanted to give to his church said that he wanted to tithe. AWESOME! He figured up the amount and wrote it down (his math skills weren't too good --- a problem for lots of Christians????) and what he wrote was 1% not 10%. I explained his error and he began figuring again. This time when he got the correct amount he said to me: "I can't afford that!" I suggested he look at his budget and see if there weren't some things that he could change so that he could "afford it." As we looked I noticed that he had purchased a very expensive sports car, I suggested that my be a place that he could make a change. Instead he wrote down a number equal to about 2% and said --- "nah, this is all I can afford." I had to chuckle!
By the way, in case you are curious, the "suggested amount" given by the event organizer was $40 per month. For most of the students that was around 1% of their calculated income.