A Child's Perspective of Money and Human Dignity

This story was contributed by our Seattle Volunteer Coordinator, Jennifer DeBusk Alviar, MDiv

Fellow second graders, Maya Veitengruber and Madeline Alviar, at McGilvra Elementary School show off their completed artwork.

Fellow second graders, Maya Veitengruber and Madeline Alviar, at McGilvra Elementary School show off their completed artwork.

A recent, kid-friendly art opportunity catalyzed an intriguing conversation with my seven-year-old daughter, Madeline, around money and human dignity. The conversation went something like this:

Me: “Madeline, you have been invited by a fellow classmate at McGilvra Elementary School to participate in an art exhibit designed by kids, for kids. Each art piece will be sold for $20. The money raised will benefit families of Seattle Children’s Hospital. Are you interested in using your art to help others?”
Madeline: “Yes! I love art. And I like helping people. But I don’t get it. Would someone really pay $20 for my art?”
Me: “Well, it’s like this. Money is more than numbers, dollars and cents. It is about human dignity. In a perfect world, everyone would have enough money to pay for basic human needs such as food, clothing, shelter, education and health care. Human needs are human rights. But we don’t live in a perfect world. In the case of Seattle Children’s Hospital, some parents can’t afford to pay for their children’s medical bills. So your artwork allows three important things to happen.
First, you are contributing your Time to design a beautiful piece of art. Second, you are sharing your Talent by using your gifts and skills as an artist. Third, in exchange for your Time and Talent, you are being rewarded by money known as Treasure. So the money raised from this art exhibit will help these parents pay for their children’s medical bills thanks to your Time, Talent and Treasure. Does this help you understand why and how your $20 are being used to make a difference in other people’s lives?"
Madeline Alviar, second grader at McGilvra Elementary School, Seattle, Washington creates an art piece to benefit Seattle Children's Hospital

Madeline Alviar, second grader at McGilvra Elementary School, Seattle, Washington creates an art piece to benefit Seattle Children's Hospital

Madeline: “Wow. I hadn’t thought about money in that way before. So if I invite other McGilvra classmates to participate in this art exhibit, just like I was invited, together we could raise more money to help more people, right?”  
Me: “Right. Let’s say you invite 10 friends to participate. Each child’s art piece will be sold for $20 each. What is 10 x $20?”
Madeline: “$200 dollars!”
Me: “Yes. That would help make an even greater social impact.”
Madeline: “What does ‘social impact’ mean?”
Me: “Social impact means the positive effect that you are making on society by helping others.”
Madeline: “So my friends and I are making a positive social impact by raising money to help families at Seattle Children’s Hospital?”
Me: “Yes. How does that feel?”
Madeline: “Good!”
Me: “It doesn’t take a lot to make a difference. And every act of service contributes toward creating a better world. Service, like money, adds up. Thanks for your artistic contribution, Madeline.”

Postscript: Collectively, children from McGilvra Elementary School and the larger community raised $980 dollars to benefit Seattle Children’s Hospital, along with Microsoft’s generous corporate matching gifts.

Proud artists Madeline and Agatha Holloway, McGilvra Elementary School classmates, pose with Agatha's dog Tuxedo.

Proud artists Madeline and Agatha Holloway, McGilvra Elementary School classmates, pose with Agatha's dog Tuxedo.

The Quinn family siblings worked as artists to help raise money to support families at Seattle Children’s Hospital. These participants include McGilvra Elementary kindergartener Lily; pre-schooler Clarke; and second grader, Alden Quinn.

The Quinn family siblings worked as artists to help raise money to support families at Seattle Children’s Hospital. These participants include McGilvra Elementary kindergartener Lily; pre-schooler Clarke; and second grader, Alden Quinn.