Besides the usual worries of pregnancy, before I gave birth I wondered what kind of person my daughter would turn out to be. Kind, clever and smart were among the attributes at the top of my wish list for her. Generous wasn’t necessarily on my short list, but it just got bumped up to the top today.
I had goosebumps while reading in the Wall Street Journal how 26-year-old Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg is among 16 billionaires new to the list — now 50 strong — of donors who publicly pledged to give away half of their fortunes to charity.
Bill Gates — who was part of the group that earlier this week announced the introduction of a vaccine that will eradicate meningitis in at least one African nation — and Warren Buffett organized the Giving Pledge to help persuade fellow billionaires to increase their charitable giving, and to do it earlier in life.
Zuckerberg is one of the world’s youngest billionaires, although his estimated $6.9 billion fortune is somewhat theoretical since Facebook has yet to list on the stock market. Still, it’s the second time this year that he’s emerged as a player in the world of philanthropy. In September he stopped by to see Oprah, announcing to her audience the promise of $100 million out of his pocket to help public schools in Newark, New Jersey.
Although she’s only two, my daughter has started learning about charity through the Tot Shabbat services we attend at our local synagogue once a month. A tzedakah box is passed around and children in attendance are encouraged to put change in the slot, with the money donated to those less fortunate. Of course she’s two and way more interested in the noise the coins make as they clink inside the metal box than the broader meaning of her actions. Still, I’m hopeful that the clinking noise will click when she’s older and turn into a positive association, and subsequent good deeds.
When I was a kid my parents, grandparents and other relatives taught by example that charitable work was a priority. They volunteered in local civic and religious organizations, giving their time and money to meaningful causes near and dear to their hearts. I wonder if Zuckerberg’s parents were charitable when he was growing up, and if his upbringing had any bearing on his tremendous acts of giving this year.
Of course there are skeptics who would argue that these tycoons might be participating in the Giving Pledge to take advantage of the tax break or as a publicity stunt, particularly Zuckerberg, who took a fairly significant public relations beating this fall following the release of the Facebook film, Social Network, in which his character came across as less than, well, charitable — financially, personally and emotionally.
But whether or not the cause of his generosity is meant as an image enhancer, the recipients of his very real dollars likely won’t argue about the effect.
What are the attributes you wish upon your child? How do you raise a charitable kid?
Image: Wikimedia Commons