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Inspiring a Future of Humanitarians

What’s the key to inspiring the next generation of humanitarians?  That's the question I ask myself when spending time with my 5 year old niece and 8 year old nephew.

Aside from the buffered picture our elders paint for us, childhood often means having little understanding of what the outside world is really like.

I see my niece and nephew’s eyes light up when I give them a birthday present wrapped in colorful paper, take them to an exciting carnival, or get them that cool new must have winter coat.. but do they know that there are children in the world who are not lucky enough to have those things?

Starting at a very young age my parents exposed me to the art of helping, volunteering, and just being kind. From the small act of helping an elderly person with their groceries or having a conversation with someone having a bad day, to the larger gestures like providing a warm bed and hot meal for a person in need. My parents never thought twice about jumping in and lending a helping hand. As time passed they became the ‘go to’ people for comfort and guidance. They helped not only our friends and family, but distant acquaintances and often times, even complete strangers. My parents are the inspiration for me to make a difference and focus my skills toward the greater good in order to ‘help those who cannot help themselves’. That’s why I find my position as Operations Manager at Second Chance Toys to be so rewarding.

Quick backstory: My parents had to redirect and clarify their message when I was 6 years old. I tried to give my McDonalds Happy Meal away to a homeless man on the streets of Boston at Christmas time without asking them if I could speak to a stranger. They had to quickly jump in and explain that giving away my own dinner wasn’t the best way to help. We went in and got him his own food and I was able to enjoy mine as well (along with my awesome new Happy Meal toy – a Strawberry Shortcake Christmas Ornament- very exciting stuff). All in all, a great lesson that I'll never forget.

I’ll be forever thankful for the gift of empathy and the desire to make a difference that my parents gave me as a young person, and now I am passing that precious gift to my niece and nephew. Someday, when I’m a mother, I look forward to passing it along to my own children as well.

Whether it’s by providing a gentle reminder that when they don’t get exactly what they want, there are children out there with absolutely nothing -- children their same age with their same wants and needs. I always make sure to share pictures of the toy donations I coordinate so they are able to see the joy on their peer’s faces, and of course, the smile on their Auntie’s face as well.  As they are getting older I’m seeing that they are able and eager to understand the message even more.

The key to inspiring the next generation of humanitarians is to do exactly what my parents did. Share the great need for kindness in the world and explain that not everyone is as lucky as the next. Most importantly, share the impact that kindness has on everyone involved; the person providing the kindness, the person who needs it, and the people witnessing it who are now inspired to do the same.

When my niece and nephew are a little older I’ll be taking them to charity events as my most important, very special guests -- the next generation of inspired humanitarians.