I used to proudly proclaim that “My house is not a democracy! It’s a benevolent dictatorship!”
I’m not sure exactly how and when that changed, but these days we do involve the children in more decision-making than a dictator would. I think decision-making and consensus-building are skills that can be taught, like everything else, so we’re trying to teach them through experience.
Last week was our annual Tzedaka vote. I couldn’t resist throwing a little learning into the mix by explaining to the kids that the root of Tzedaka is Tzedek, or justice (sometimes also translated as righteousness.) We give Tzedaka not because we’re generous and charitable, but because it is just and right to share some of what we’ve been given.
Mr. December gave each child ten poker chips. I had prepared cards with the logos of our usual charities (and a couple of causes that were new this year) and I spread them out on the table. We explained briefly what each charity was about and why we originally decided to support them. And then… voting time.
It’s always interesting to watch the kids allocate their chips to different organizations. Some years I wonder what they’re thinking; this year Mr. December asked.
“I’m donating to Sick Kids because they have really good stuff that helps kids not be scared, like that special stand that holds the iPad so you can play while the doctors are working on you.”
“I like our old school and I want to see it continue, so I put my chips in for that.”
“I think we should support the community orchard because it’s cool to have in our neighbourhood.”
“We use Wikipedia a lot and it’s great that it doesn’t have ads.”
Do you see what I see? For the most part, the kids voted to support organizations that they had personal experience with. Or, as Mr. December cynically pointed out, “There’s a significant element of self-interest at play here.”
One of the new items on our table was really a borderline decision: allocating funds towards supporting local businesses. In other words, we’re setting aside a certain amount of money to make purchases at our local shops (many of which are on the expensive side) instead of at cheaper chains or big-box stores. Is that charity? Nope. But is it Tzedaka? I’m not sure—we are choosing to spend extra money in a way that supports our community, so… kind of?
If you think that the kids didn’t put the majority of their chips on “buy local”, then you’re probably not aware that our neighbourhood boasts a Baskin-Robbins ice cream parlour, the kids’ favourite laffa restaurant, and an authentic French bakery that makes delectable baguettes and croissants. And those are just three of the many businesses whose products the kids like to eat. They definitely voted with their stomachs this time.