I worked at Hasbro, the toy company with annual worldwide sales of $4.07 billion dollars in 2009, for almost seven years beginning in 1990. For those who aren’t aware, Hasbro was started in the 1940s by the Hassenfeld family, and produced nurse and doctor kits as their first toys. It is a local Rhode Island company and has headquarters in Pawtucket.
Working at Hasbro was one of my favorite jobs in my career for a variety of reasons. One was that I loved being part of such a success story—small local company makes it big—but the most important reason was the lessons it taught me in philanthropy. There is no fanfare in their charity work; many times no one ever hears what they do. Every employee participates in events such as having your child make an ornament for the giant holiday tree and then Hasbro will donate a toy to a child in need. Or, we would walk in charity walks, and…well, you name it. The philanthropy focuses on children all over the world and involves anything and everything to do with helping children.
I had my children after I left Hasbro, but the lessons they taught me in charity and gratitude had already rubbed off. I wanted to teach my boys about what giving really means and make sure they understood the world extended beyond their street, school, or neighborhood. When they were young and began to have birthday parties, we talked about how we could use that celebration to influence another child’s life in a positive way.
Each year, instead of having their friends bring a present to their birthday parties, we would pick a charitable activity instead. One year, we asked everyone to bring their favorite book and sign the inside cover with their name and grade. After the party, my boys and I brought the books to our local children’s hospital to help expand their library.
Of course, the people at Hasbro Children’s Hospital always made sure my kids knew what an amazing thing they did and how much the kids in the hospital were going to love the books. My kids always felt so great leaving, knowing they had just contributed to making another child happy, sometimes during some very difficult and trying times. This particular way of performing a charitable activity had a double impact—my kids felt great dropping the books off and the birthday participants felt great knowing one of their favorite books with their signature in the inside cover would be a part of the hospital’s library.
We have done Make A Wish parties and contributed to Save The Children’s charities during natural disasters. We’ve also done food parties for the local Food Bank.
If you ever wondered do these types of charitable acts rub off on kids when they are so young, they do. Today, when you ask either one of my boys, “What would you like for your birthday?”or “What is on your holiday list this year?” very seldom will you get an answer. That is not to say that they are not normal, healthy kids. Last year, my oldest son, who was then 13 and a huge Arsenal soccer fan, said the only thing he wanted was a team jersey, but usually all you get is “nothing really…I don’t really need anything.” Spending time with family and friends is what they really want. It’s always the first question they ask, “Is everyone coming this year?”
Generosity and the ability to share what you have with people you know and love, and those you don’t, may not be an inherent trait, but it can certainly be learned. Teaching an attitude of giving will help your kids develop compassion and a sense of humanity towards others. Those may sound like big words and lofty statements, but psychological research tells us that cultivating gratitude and a charitable lifestyle will help us be more optimistic and happier. Consider this, giving to those who need may actually reduce stress and make us less aggressive. Plus, it brings us closer to other people and establishes connections that we wouldn’t have otherwise. The act of giving has been shown to inspire feelings of gratitude in the giver as well as the receiver, and when we feel grateful we are more likely to give again, research shows.
Another benefit of nurturing a culture of giving and gratitude is that both have been shown to improve our ability to deal with biting criticism or insults. Charity and gratitude are the emotions of friendship and esteem. When you give something to someone, even if it’s a stranger, you realize that they matter to you more than you thought they did.
Does what we do when our kids are young rub off when they are older? Yes. That goes for more than just charity—eating right, exercising, being socially responsible. It starts when they are young and lasts a lifetime. I believe that teaching kids how to be charitable when they are young helps to reduce stress as they grow older. I’m glad community service is part of the regular curricula of the school both my kids attend in Providence.
Try doing something charitable with your son(s) and/or daughter(s) and see what happens. Especially with the start of a new year and the world in a such an unstable place. Helping each other is not only beneficial to the receiver, but to the giver as well.