Saving the World with $7

At bedtime the other night the 6 year old Original Pigtail Pal gave me some sass over saying her Thankfuls & Gratefuls. I asked if she was thankful for her warm blankets and clean, cozy home; her healthy body; her books and toys and art supplies; her closet full of clothes; the food she and her friends devoured during a playdate earlier in the night.

She then said she didn’t care about any of that because she didn’t have a dolphin. She is convinced we can keep one in our backyard, or in tubes suspended from the ceiling of the bedroom she controls shares with her little brother. We talked a little bit more, and she eventually came around to share some thoughtful Thankfuls & Gratefuls with me. Then she started asking some questions about children around the world who don’t have blankets. For awhile now she has been very disturbed by the fact that there are children who don’t have beds and enough blankets to keep them warm at night. I answered her questions, but was exhausted and started to drift off to sleep.

I woke up to her crying. Little sniffs and whimpers that soon crescendoed into sobs. Between gulps for air she demanded to talk to President Obama about why he hasn’t brought the children to live in the houses that are for sale in America, and give them the blankets and toys and food they need. She bawled about needing to fly to Africa to play with the children and make them happy, and then roped Secretary Clinton into her tirade of government officials she perceived to be failing our world’s children. I tried explaining the complicated issue in a way that an over-tired six year old would understand at ten o’clock at night, but little mama wasn’t having it. She had worked herself up to the point that every statement she made was punctuated with a stern finger in the air. Amelia made a list of points that would be in her letter she wanted addressed by President Obama. I could see and feel her little heart aching, and her mind spinning.

She finally calmed down, and asked if I would tell her about the day her Uncle Eric and I were in South Africa and played with the children. She was referring to the time my brother and I visited a Cape Town township (that’s the polite word for AIDS-stricken shanty town) and spent the day talking with residents, and playing with the children in the dusty streets. I always make a point to explain the level of poverty these people live in, but that my entire day was spent with people laughing and smiling and happy children running everywhere.

Amelia asked if in the morning she could use her allowance to send her blankets and toys to the children in Africa and then buy them houses here in America. I explained to her that removing children from their homes wasn’t the answer, that we needed to find ways to make their homes better places. I explained how important children were to the countries they were born in. I reminded her that there were many poor children in America, and even right in our own city. I told her about my friend Erin in Nepal who builds schools for girls, and my friend Cristianne in South Africa who helps AIDS orphans. Amelia adored Cristianne when she was living here in the States, and that seemed to be the magic that got her to settle into sleep for the night.

At breakfast the next morning, we talked a little bit more about why she had been so upset. 4 year old Benny Boy was now in on the conversation, and the kids were devising a plan. We decided they would pool their Chore Chart money together and that Mr. Pigtail Pals and I would match it. Between the two of them they had $7.00, with a match from their parents bringing the total to $14.00. She asked if Pigtail Pals would make a company donation, too. I agreed to match their $14.00, bringing them to $28.00. I said we could go to the bank and withdraw $28 and donate it to the local food pantry, or buy blankets and teddy bears and make up overnight bags for children at the women’s shelter. Amelia was adamant the money had to go to Africa.

And then Benny Boy said, “Wree shoid ass dee people we know to give der monies to us for mo monies.” Crowd-sourcing, a la a four year old.

So we made a list of people we could ask: Grandma & Grandpa, Tio Chris in Costa Rica, and Uncle Eric & Auntie Lisa in Madagascar.

We hit the grandparents first, because if there is one thing Amelia does well, it is shake down her grandpa. She exlained what she wanted to do, asked if he would match her and Benny’s $7.00, and he agreed in 3 seconds flat. Next we tracked down Grandma on her cell phone, and they netted another $7.00. The kids now had $42.00, which got Benny so excited he stripped naked and started running around the house screaming.

Amelia snuggled next to me on the couch, and I showed her a video from Heifer International.

I said with $42.00, she and Benny had enough for two flocks of chicks, and we talked about the idea of handing a person one chicken dinner verses gifting a person a flock of chicks that could sustain a family and give them a source of income and pride. I explained to her how that money would go back into the family’s local economy, benefiting the other families who sold goods or services to the family with the chicks. We talked about the chicks laying eggs the family could give to neighbors in need. Amelia was able to see the circle, and she decided two flocks of chicks is how we would spend our $42.00.

Benny was still running around like a naked wild man, so we explored more  of the Heifer website. Amelia’s eyes became round and sparkling.

“Mom,” she said, “make a list of everyone we know. We’re buying a goat.”

That is how some bedtime tears and $7.00 turned into two flocks of chicks and two strongly worded letters to President Obama and Secretary Clinton. And a little girl determined to change the world.

If you would like to give the gift of self-sustainability and hope to a family somewhere in the world this Spring, please visit Heifer International’s gift catalog, or help fund one of their projects here in America or elsewhere on the globe.