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Sharing is Caring: A Guide to Goodwill

Updated on June 19, 2012

Getting kids to share their personal belongings isn't always easy, but that choice should never be made for them. Year upon year, adults rifle through children's belongings without their knowledge or consent, often getting rid of favorite items. This occurs either because the adults do not know their children as well as they think they do or because they simply don't care and it's just one more way to exert control over them. Working together, however, both parent and child can come to an agreement on what gets to stay and what needs to go. It's better that way for everyone.

Making donations teaches children the virtue and value of generosity and goodwill. They must decide on their own what they can do on their part to help children in need by giving away things that they no longer want or need. It's their opinion that counts when making these decisions, not that of the adult. While children can be immature or overly sentimental at any age, the decision to give to charity is a mature one. Therefore, they must be guided through it by a patient, level-headed adult who they trust to help them make an acceptable decision regarding their excess belongings. Alternately, if you want to encourage them to make an adult decision like this, I would encourage you to first treat them more like adults. Start by setting a good example and encouraging them to follow it whenever they're ready. It also helps to lay down some ground rules, such as not keeping something solely because it is "theirs." Once they can get past the "mine" stage, in which they want to give up nothing, they can be trusted to make their own decisions. Trying to force them to part with something before they are ready will only bring trouble.

A high-and-mighty or holier-than-thou attitude is not the right way to go about this either. Religious groups or people who take their religion way too seriously will try to pressure you (or in some cases con you) into giving away almost all of your possessions in the name of God or the less fortunate. While there is nothing wrong with giving to charity or any religion advocating it, it should not be used as ammunition in the form of guilt or shame and used to control someone's actions. While you may not consider yourself rich, you are to those less fortunate than you. However, we must all decide for ourselves what we can afford to give away without becoming less fortunate ourselves. Some of us may have had no choice but to cut corners due to the shaky economy, but that is not the same as being charitable. In addition, do not become overly proud of yourself just because you are making a donation or have influenced someone else to do so. While doing something for someone else can make you feel good inside, there is no excuse for getting caught up in vainglory and belittling those around you.

For the sake of the businesses that sell donated items as well as the people who will be on the receiving end of them, I must point out that not everything can be salvaged. If something is too stained or too ripped and cannot be restored to an acceptable condition, it should not be handed in. A donation bin is not the same as a garbage dumpster. With that in mind, please note that small, barely noticeable defects may still be acceptable. Someone who works for the company will sort them accordingly.

Do you ever feel guilty about giving away something you don't need if it was originally given to you as a gift?

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