But unlike many of the people who extended heartfelt charity during this special time of extreme need, Madison has experienced a regular pattern of charity in her young life that has helped her view the process of giving as more than a crisis-oriented activity.
A family meeting was indeed called by Madison's parents following her emotional outburst. It was convened to discuss the family charity jar that sits tucked away in the kitchen.
"I know it's not time to decide who gets our charity money, but this is an emergency," Madison explained to her parents and two younger brothers. No one in the Willow family needed convincing. They had all seen the dramatic television images. It took less than 10 minutes for the Willows to vote to send the $47.58 they had accumulated to the Red Cross to help the survivors of the tsunami.
Robert and Tammy Willow believe teaching their children about giving is important. That's why they began the charity jar.
Each Sunday night during their family meeting, the Willows distribute allowances to their children. The youngsters are invited to contribute some of their allowance to the charity jar. If or how much they contribute is up to each individual. Robert and Tammy model the importance of giving by adding a portion of their own money each week.
"When the contents of the jar exceed one hundred dollars, the family decides together on a charity to receive the money. One winter the Willow family bought gloves and donated them to the Salvation Army. They, also, adopted a whale. In the past three years they've purchased a winter coat as part of the "coats for kids" program, obtained and wore Lance Armstrong cancer bracelets, and made a donation to a local retirement ranch for abused horses.
At this hastily called family summit, the Willows easily reached consensus on what to do with the charity money. They helped count the money. They watched as their mother wrote the check. Madison addressed the envelope. One of the boys added the stamp. The other licked the envelope. All went to the post office to place their contribution in the drop box. All prayed together as Mr. Willow asked that the money be used for the greater good of all concerned.
This time the Willows' charity would be sent halfway around the world to people they would never see. It would be used in places they would never visit. It would affect lives in ways they would never know.
Giving has many dimensions, some obvious, some not. The Willow family gave the money for the benefit of others, but in the process they gave themselves a deep sense of satisfaction. They gave other people's children hope while simultaneously giving their own children lessons on the importance of generosity and charity. Charity, as demonstrated by the Willows, clearly begins at home.
THOMAS HALLER & CHICK MOORMAN, authors of "The 10 Commitments: Parenting with Purpose" (Personal Power Press at toll-free 877-360-1477, amazon.com, and bookstores. www.chickmoorman.com • www.10commitments.net