Motivate, not obligate

published 31 Oct 2012, MST page A5

My friend Christine has two children. The younger, Joy, is eight years old and in third grade at a Catholic school in a Bulacan town. The school had a charity drive last month. Proceeds were supposed to go to some charitable works that the school— actually a part of a big chain of schools all over the country—was engaged in. Students were given envelopes in which to place their contributions. Joy had little money with her. She is not used to bringing big amounts with her. She brought recess and lunch food from home. She also did not ask for more, seeing that her mother, a young widow, was always trying to spend and save wisely.

And so Christine put P20 in her daughter’s envelope. Joy wished that her contribution would go far.

But when a classmate saw how much Joy’s enveloped contained, that classmate said that Joy was “kuripot” (tight-fisted) in front of the whole class.

The teacher did not correct the child and instead made another round of collections among the class and added that amount to the P20 in Joy’s envelope. “Para madagdagan, kasi maliit,” the teacher said, adding that they were not supposed to give small amounts because this was a charity drive.

When Joy told her mother about what happened in school, Christine became angry. Immediately, questions came up:

- What kind of teacher was the one molding her daughter’s mind?

- What kind of students would that institution produce?

- What kind of religion would do such a thing? She herself grew up Catholic and is every day trying to live up to Church teachings, although it was not easy.

In a fit, Christine posted the above questions on Facebook. She was reacting as a mother, as a Catholic, and as herself a product of the same chain of schools.

Many of her friends reacted with the same surprise and disgust. A close relative, however, advised her to take down the post saying she might be attributing the act of one person on an entire institution —not only the school, but the faith.A few days later, Christine went to talk to the academic coordinator of the school. She calmly pointed out why she believed the adviser’s words and actions were wrong.

The coordinator agreed with Christine. She said that in fact, they had been advised by the organizations they were helping that donors should be motivated, not obligated, to give more than their spare change.

The coordinator conceded that the class adviser failed to deliver this message to the students. She said she would talk to the teacher, and to the students as well, to “re-orient them about the value of giving.”

Christine was thankful and relieved that the school official reacted this way. She wishes her daughter’s adviser no harm but remains worried that this incident would be repeated somewhere at some other time.

The season of charity is upon us again. It is good to teach young children to share what they have—what big or little they have—with those who need help.

Charity, however, must not be imposed. Nobody has the right to chide anyone for not giving more. That is, in itself, a most uncharitable act