Originally published on Impatient Optimists by Joy Marini.
Perspective from a Mom: Joy
I recently saw the word “philanthroteen,” referring to our next generation of global philanthropists in a United Nations Foundation article. As the mother of two teenagers, the concept of teens as change-agents to improve the lives of others is intriguing.
I have strived to do what I could do to encourage my children to look beyond their backyard and put others before themselves. I ask them what they know about the world and how they would change it if they could. I encourage them to think of ways that they could bring their ideas to life. Sometimes this works, and sometimes it does not. One thing that I have learned is that children have to choose their own path. When they have a passion for something, they will choose to make a difference on their own.
Here are six ideas that might be helpful as you encourage your own “philanthroteen”:
- Expose your teen to issues that will be meaningful to them. Children have varying capacity to absorb the needs of others. Sometimes it helps to start small — maybe just an issue in their neighborhood, church or school.
- Encourage their passions. When they shows an interest, help them discover more.
- Recommend a focus. While “World Peace” sounds great, it might be a little ambitious for one teenager. (Sorry Kendall – see below.)
- Guide them to resources. Generation Z has an astonishing ability to navigate an electronic world, but younger children may need assistance finding resources.
- Help them learn how to transform a big idea into action.
- Lend your advice and expertise, but don’t be surprised if they don’t accept it right away.
I always laugh at a scene from one of my favorite movies, Miss Congeniality, in which a female FBI agent enters a beauty contest:
Stan Fields (the MC in the Miss United States Pageant): What is the one most important thing our society needs?
Gracie Hart (FBI agent): That would be harsher punishment for parole violators, Stan.
Gracie Hart: [fake smile] And world peace!
[enthusiastic cheering from the crowd]
What would make the world a better place? I have been asked this question countless times and it evolves as I grow older. When I was in grade school, my “world” was my house, and what would make it a better place was in the power of my parents. In middle school, my perspective of the world expanded from my house to my community. After blowing the whistle in a bullying incident, I realized that the pre-teenage years are hard to navigate, so I organized self-esteem workshops for younger girls in my school, which I still lead today.
Most of my family works in healthcare and they embrace service to others, but it wasn’t until I traveled to South Africa during my junior year of high school that I realized the abundance of need in the world. After seeing poverty-stricken shantytowns and hungry children, my empathy grew and so did my view of the world.
Over the past year, I have been serving as a Johnson & Johnson curator for www.Catapult.org, a crowdfunding platform dedicated to making positive differences for women and girls worldwide. I have championed numerous projects, such as providing clean water to 300 people in Ethiopia and helping women start small businesses in Senegal. We raised more than $60,000 for six projects in less than eight months!
Here are some of my ideas for motivating others to act:
- Be open to new ideas and perspectives. Listening helps you understand what the issues are.
- Pick a project that you will enjoy. Make it fun and make a difference!
- Get your friends involved. You will accomplish more, have more fun, and they might become interested in helping others.
When I learned about the world, I was inspired to act. Maybe Gracie Hart’s answer isn’t so bad after all. What if we all aspired to world peace?