In this episode, I talked with 9 year-old Audrey Blankenship. Audrey has been selling art annually to raise money for her local food pantry. When she goes to the grocery store, she asks her mom to buy some for the people who need it. She even has made reindeer ornaments for 300 grocery store employees. Her advice is, “Follow your heart. Your heart tells you it’s the right thing; make sure it’s the right thing, and go with it.”
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Audrey Blankenship is a 9 year old third grader currently attending a fully remote remote elementary school. Her self-identified religion is Kindness. Audrey began her life as a ‘philanthropist’ by smiling at everyone in her path. The smile of a baby/child is magic. At three and a half she began to understand that there were those less fortunate then herself. That realization led her to ask for charitable donation instead of gifts at her birthday parties. Her love of art making has further her ‘ambitions’ to help others. She routinely makes holiday and valentines cards for senior centers and made 300 ornaments for 2 years in a row to hand out to all the employees of her local grocery store. Her current energy, when not at school she is creating pieces for her second annual charity art sale.
My blog post Obligation: The Enemy of Generosity.
Jenn Klein: Welcome to the You Are a Philanthropist podcast. This is Episode 11, and today we’re talking with Audrey Blankenship and her mother, Erin Blankenship. Audrey is nine years old and she enjoys giving her birthday gifts as donations and has an annual art show. Her mother is the co-chair of a fully remote elementary school in Acton, Boxborough, and has years of volunteer service, including in a maternity ward and summer camp. She is also a teacher.
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JK: Welcome to the show. Hi. I’m so glad you’re here, Audrey. You’re my first guest who is a young child. And can you tell me a little bit about who you are?
Audrey Blankenship: Well, I’m nine years old like he said. And since third grade, I love to do art, science, and math, and I love to write books. I also like to put on art shows, make stuff, find stuff in the woods, find feathers and then make art and stuff. And take a bench that we had and chairs and just put them out on the street. And not necessarily yell because really, that just makes me nervous, actually. Just standing there hoping that somebody will support me and hoping that somebody likes my stuff. I’m going to do one after COVID is over. I’ve done a lot of art so far, also, and there’s going to be a cooking because I also love to cook completely and–
Erin Blankenship: And all the proceeds.
AB: Oh, reading. Yeah, I love love reading and also I love HP. HP is awesome if you ask me.
JK: Oh, what’s HP? Oh, Harry Potter, of course, silly me.
AB: Yeah, Harry Potter.
JK: It sounds like you’re a very artistic girl. This must come very naturally to you. Is this a talent of your mom’s too? Where do you think you got your artistry from?
AB: I guess I just kind of liked it and kept going with it, really. I just started to like it, and then I went on and on and on, and I got better and better and better. And then because I liked it, I just kept doing it. And the more you do it the better you get, really. So I’m just kind of good at it now because I like it so much. You know?
JK: Excellent. How many years have you been doing your art show?
AB: Two I think. I only did it twice.
JK: And so you weren’t able to do it this year because of COVID, is that right?
AB: Uh, no. Next time we do it, this will be my second.
JK: And what types of things do you make?
AB: Well, so often drawings. I’m making a kitchen. Well, I also made a– I just want to talk about one of my drawings that I’m really proud of. Is that okay?
AB: Well, so basically, I’m just drawing a dress. Even though it’s just a drawing of a red dress, it’s really cool because I wrapped up a red paper and glued it to it so the dress would be fluffy. Well, it’s really cool.
JK: Excellent. And so where does the money that you raise from your charity go to?
AB: Usually, some of the world’s biggest disasters like tornadoes, floods, stuff like that.
JK: Wow. So you really send it to some of the neediest people in the world who really need help?
AB: I just feel like that’s some of the most important stuff because it’s the world’s biggest disasters. I mean, it doesn’t have the weird name for that for nothing, does it?
JK: Yes. And do you ever think about how lucky of a little girl you are to be in your nice safe home and with wonderful parents and a safe house?
AB: Actually, it’s not too safe because of COVID.
JK: Yeah, that’s changed, hasn’t it? That’s been a scary year. and I know you have been learning remotely this year. Are you going to go back to school next year?
AB: Yes, though I’m not going to go to hybrid this year because we’d like to stay remote for as long as we can basically. I love remote.
JK: You do? I’m happy to hear that. You like your teachers?
AB: She’s awesome.
JK: Excellent. I’m so happy to hear that. So tell me also, your mother told me that you give the birthday presents you receive to charities as well.
AB: Yeah, I think so.
EB: What she usually does is she says, “If you feel the need to give me a gift, instead of a gift, could you please donate to… and we list two charities because, again, we don’t want to assume that somebody is going to give us a gift. So we’re not saying give us a gift. We’re saying if you feel the need, because I feel like people just give a gift because they’re supposed to. And giving should be an option. It shouldn’t be required. So we do research. We pick two charities that she’s interested in to make it easier. And we put those links and say, “If you feel the desire…”, so that’s what she has done for most of her birthdays since she was about four. We had a special experience that made her decide that she finally realized – I think she was almost four almost four, that some people don’t get stuff, and that kind of changed her life.
JK: Yeah. So you’ve been donating to charity for half of your life, at least, haven’t you?
AB: I am nine and this is since I was four, so I guess maybe one year more than half my life.
JK: That’s awesome.
AB: Because that would be five years ago about.
JK: That’s right. And so tell me, what are the type of reactions that you get when people buy your artwork?
AB: Really, it just makes me– it makes me happy that somebody is buying it because then that money is going to go to the charities. But it makes me curious and sad because it makes me wonder, “What if they’re just doing it because I’m a child? They’re not doing it because they actually like it,” whenever somebody bought it and they just crumpled it up and put it in their bag, especially maybe they probably just don’t like it. They were just buying it so that makes me happy.
JK: Aw, so they didn’t realize how– they didn’t realize how important it was that they were buying it that they realized how beautiful your artwork is, as well as the fact that it’s going to a charity.
EB: But some people have come along and they’ve offered her more money than she asked for because they knew it was going to a charity.
JK: That’s beautiful.
AB: Like, for example a family friend– one time it was a hawk feather, and it was only supposed to be about 5, but they gave us like 12.
JK: Oh, nice. And every dollar matters. That’s something I’ve been saying on this show, is that anybody can make a difference. And that’s why at nine years old, I’m very proud of you for someone who’s making a difference in the world. And I’m curious how your mother– Erin, if you could please share how this started for Audrey, from your perspective, about how she enjoys to be a philanthropist.
EB: Several years ago, I started a French playgroup because I felt that it was– I want her to hear the language of France. That’s my second language. And having lived in other countries, I know how it is to not have people around you that understand your culture. So that was sort of a meeting group. And I wanted it to be free because most in Seattle, which is where we’re from, most of the conversation groups wouldn’t let you bring children. So I created a francophone playgroup. And then my friends and I started thinking about how a lot of the Adopt-A-Family for Christmas, it kind of gets expensive. So we decided, if we went as a group on a family, we could get a bigger family, if that makes any sense. So there’s five of us doing it. We agreed we wanted to get a gift for the grandmother, and then we each agreed to take one child. We want to make sure all four sons, all four little boys got equal gifts. As you know, as a mother, it wouldn’t be fair to give one kid more. One of my friends said, “Oh, I didn’t quite finish my shopping. Can you finish it for me?” And I thought, “I have two kids. It’s near Christmas.” So I had to bring a toddler and barely more than a toddler into, basically, near Christmas, into a TJ Maxx to buy a gift. And Audrey saw this train set and she said, “Mom, we have to buy this train set.” And I said, “Well, we want to spend X amount of money because we want all the gifts to be equal. How would you feel if your sister got a really big gift and you only got a little one?” And she said, “But I know they’re going to want this, Mommy, and they could share it.” And I said, “Well, let’s get the truck, because the truck will equal– all the boys will be equal.” And she said, “But Mommy, they need this.” And I said, “Well, do you want to give one of your Christmas presents to buy this for them?”And she said, “Oh, I know, I’m going to get plenty of gifts. And I think that they’re going to like this. So, yes, Mommy, I’m going to give up one of my gifts because I have stuff, and I’m concerned that these boys aren’t going to have much.” So she actually had just turned three or just turned four, and I thought it’d be a nightmare to go into a shopping store. And she said, “I think they need this. I think it makes a difference. Yes, I’ll give up a gift.”
JK: That’s amazing.
EB: And that was really where it started. Like I said, we’re not flashy about it, but I always want them to be aware of what we do and why we do it. When she was little–
AB: I barely remember it, by the way.
EB: But when she was little, instead of sort of saying, “We can actually give,” I’d say, “People like to look at you. You’re a cute little girl. Nobody could touch you, but a smile costs you nothing, and it might make a difference. Maybe a lonely elderly person, maybe a wave at somebody else, it could make a difference. It could brighten somebody’s day.” And that was kind of what I told the kids. “Always feel safe and comfortable, but why not smile? Somebody says hi to you, it doesn’t hurt, and it could make all the difference to somebody else.” So that’s kind of where it started. Kindness counts. Even the littlest thing can matter.
JK: That’s so cool, because our last guest, Paul Ott, was saying in his episode– he’s a 70-year-old man, and he also talks about the importance of smiling. And he started at a very young age, too. And he’s met so many friends from different walks of life because he just starts a conversation with anybody and everybody.
EB: Sounds like us. [laughter]
JK: That’s beautiful. And so that’s another way we can be philanthropists is giving to charity, giving our time, making things for other people, giving a smile. I love that at such a young age, you’re already incorporating that into your lifestyle. Erin, how did this get started for you?
EB: For me, ever since I was little, my mom and my grandma and my aunts, we’ve always adopted a family. I said we’re not religious, so it’s just been people in need. Sometimes, we’d find those giving them trees. Sometimes one of my aunts and I would just say, “Let’s pick a family.” Again, we’d always go for a bigger family, usually a single mom or whatever it was, and say, if we all donate, we can’t– because so many people, I think now, a lot of places say you have to give at least $25 on that. Man, isn’t a lot, but it could be. So we said with enough adults, if we just adopted a family and we all helped out, we could get a bigger family, because when I was little, I was on a vacation and I saw people but I didn’t understand why are they sitting out in the cold. And people kind of explained it to me quite a little, but then we started realizing that we may not have a lot, but we have something. And I wish it wasn’t just Christmas. I wish people gave year-round. But to me, if it reminds you and it does something, you do that. So it’s always been– my mom has always said, “Just not a big deal,” but she said, “Let’s donate to this or that.” And one of the things I always remember, she said, “People need the essentials.” She said both are really important. I always buy pretty underpants, because that’s such a basics that people never think about. But everybody deserves just to have a little nice pantie. And this is for kids. It sounds silly but that little something that makes you feel proud, that little special secret, something that nobody sees, the little frill that maybe your parents don’t have the money to, quote-unquote, “waste on”, but that matters to you. So that’s sort of where mine started, again, just always helping out. And then from there, I think I took it to any time people needed help with something, I’d accidentally volunteer. And that’s how I’ve stumbled into PTSO leadership, and all this has been, “But it needs to happen.” [laughter] And that’s how she is, too. “Well, I need help to the Cub Scouts because they need help. It has to happen.” It’s just the giving.
JK: Audrey, is your mom your greatest inspiration? Are there other people, maybe your grandma, your great aunt, so you can think of that really inspire you?
EB: Sometimes my dad actually because he’s a scientist and he helps because he’s a drug scientist.
JK: Excellent. And so, you know that what he’s doing for work is really important for society and keeping people healthy. Is that right?
AB: Uh-huh, though he’s not doing a Coronavirus. He’s doing other stuff, though that stuff is important too, obviously. Excellent. Is your dad home right now, too, because of COVID?
Yeah, he’s working from home.
JK; So you get lots of family time. That’s nice. And so we’re going to take a commercial break and we’re going to come back and hear from Audrey and Erin some more about their volunteerism. Thank you. We’ll be right back.
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JK: Okay, we’re back. And we’re talking to Audrey, who’s nine, and her mom, Aaron, who has guided her daughter into philanthropy at such a young age. And Audrey, I’d like to hear again from you about what you do to incorporate philanthropy into your life. Is this something that you’re always thinking about or you do it from time to time?
EB: I think it’s sort of always in your mind, I mean, ever since you’re little. Remember when you used to bring gifts to the grocery store?
JK: Tell me about that. What did you use to bring to the grocery store?
AB: Every time at Christmas, I would bring these little reindeer ornaments for Christmas, and they’re just Rudolph ornaments that looked cool.
EB: You like to make things.
AB: I just like to make things. Yeah, I actually made them.
JK: You made reindeer ornaments?
AB: And I was going to give all my friends and people who work at the grocery store, everybody that I saw basically. Though, that kind of started out what I did, so yeah, usually, I did it all my friends really.
JK: Now, was this a big store, or was this a small store?
EB: They have about 300 employees.
JK: Wow. So you were making a lot of reindeer ornaments, weren’t you?
EB: Yes. She meant to give them to her friends, but then she said, “We’ll be rude to give to this person and not that person.” So then she gave away the one she made for her friends. Sometimes, she’s like, “Well, I have to go home and make more.” So it ended up being about 300.
JK: Well, you’re a very generous little girl and very kind.
AB: And once I made someone cry happy tears.
JK: Oh, I bet. I bet. Because it’s not every day that children think to be so kind and go out of their way, especially for adults doing hard work. That was very impressive. How old were you when you did that?
AB: Four, three, two.
EB: No, we got here four. We did four and five and then we moved here. But we sent ornaments. The year we moved to Massachusetts, we still sent some, not 300, but we sent some ornaments back home to our grocery store.
JK: That is so nice. And Mom, how did you get that idea? Or maybe it wasn’t even your idea. Maybe it was Audrey’s idea.
EB: It was actually Audrey’s idea. When we had to make sure that we would go and visit, again, it was within walking distance, and I had both my children in the same house. I mean, so we lived in the house. So when you have a baby, you’re like, “Well, I need to get out of the house.” We would just go down the street to the grocery store, and we started making friends that way. And then we thought– Audrey’s like, “I have to give them a gift.” And that’s how it started. Well, then we don’t need to buy them something special.
AB: I [thought?] that was your idea, mommy.
EB: No, that was you.
AB: Well, I totally did not know that.
EB: You wanted to make something special for Shane and Frank, and that’s how it started. And then the next year, we recruited your little sister to help.
JK: Sounds like you are a very humble little girl.
AB: One time she put Rudolph’s nose on the eyeball.
EB: Exactly. But it was a handmade original and it was lovely.
AB: So tell me what your sister does, too, for charity work. Well, I don’t actually remember at this second. I don’t really pay attention.
EB: One of the big things that her little sister does is she really, really got excited about the black lives matter situation so she wanted to come with me. We hold signs. Again, we don’t call– it’s just reminding– we don’t have to fight anything here and act and it’s theoretically not too bad but to say we support you, we see you, and we care about you she wanted to you want to design her own sign. And she said, “Mommy, can I come with you this week when you go do it?” She wants to come and she stands out there for an hour with her sign, making sure that she gets the attention because a seven-year-old little girl with her big, beautiful rainbow sign is going to get attention. And that’s what she wants. She wants people to feel loved and safe. That’s what she said, “I want everybody should know that they matter, so I have to have my little sign.”
JK: It’s so wonderful because I remember very vividly going by a Black Lives Matter protest. And my son, who was four at the time, said, “Mommy, what are they doing?” And I said, “They’re just telling people that everybody should be loved.” And it’s a very simple concept.
EB: Yeah, I mean, and that’s the thing. When we would look and we sit there and I feel funny saying, you know, holding our signs because, yes, there’s racism everywhere, but my friends around the world or around the country, they’re actually risking their safety when they’re going and holding their signs. It’s dangerous and we are somewhat stakeholding our signs. But the first time I went, I actually had a woman drive by and she said, “Oh, Merci, merci,” and started crying. And I thought– I believe she was probably Haitian. But again, it’s not so much because the police whatever, it’s saying, you there here, I see you. We send our love.
EB: And when we had– we had some local people in my town get targeted toward racism and my children sent them a video saying, “We love you, you’re good, we care.”
JK: Oh, my gosh.
AB: I even got a thank you letter.
EB: Yeah, because we care. And so, again, we don’t claim there’s no racism. We claim that we are not in danger by holding this sign. So I thought– first I thought it was stupid, and then I thought, no, it matters. There was a little boy there, he had a little sign, and the sign says, black lives matter, my life matters, and it broke my heart because this little boy wasn’t even in– he wasn’t even in a kindergarten yet and he was there with his sign for those who don’t think about it. We have the luxury of holding our sign but for this man and his little boy, it wasn’t a luxury. For them it was– and I think Amelia, seeing that there were little kids and that it would affect them made a difference. I mean, for us, we’ve always had friends that have different skin colors, different languages, different religions, so they didn’t really think about it. And they said like, “Wait a minute. Somebody is not okay with this?”
EB: So I think it was kind of interesting to say, it’s like it’s not a new topic, but it was also a strange topic because for them, well, I’ve got people all different color. You know, it was when you say this, what do you mean by that? You know, because of course, all lives matter. So it’s kind of bittersweet. But she’s like, “Oh, not on my watch.” So the little one is very like loud and proud. And then Audrey, Audrey’s [her art?] all year. Right now we’re doing the art. We can’t have our art show but she’s collecting her art up and when the time comes, she will be ready. So she collects up. She does drawings. And if there’s a Valentine’s Day senior citizen event or there’s a holiday thing, any chance she gets she’s already kind of got some stuff, and then she makes new stuff. But all year she’s got stuff and she’s waiting to brighten lives with it.
JK: That’s amazing. And Mom, do you think she’ll be an artist one day, or does she have other things that she enjoys doing?
EB: She really loves science and she really loves animals, so maybe she’ll be a veterinarian.
AB: I love animals a lot. I mean, a lot, a lot, a lot. In fact, I’m going to have a farm when I grow up.
EB: So basically, like, I do photography, but that’s not my career. I’m a teacher by profession. What I tell her is do something that you love but your art, I think, is something you keep for you because once you make that your profession, people start changing it. If you have to get paid for it, they tell you how they want it. And I think art is for you. So I told her that if she wants to do it, that’s great. But find something else that you love. She loves science. She loves animals. And art can be a part of it. And there’s no reason it should ever go away. But I feel like anything else, you’ll be doing it for others, just like charity. I’m going to hold this check out and smile and I hand it to somebody,” I mean, I’m not a politician. So do what you love for you, whatever feeds your soul. So if art feeds your soul, do it.
JK: That’s beautiful.
EB: But she had so many other things that she loves. She is so kind and so sweet and so amazing. Whether or not she ends up being an artist or going into whatever field, I know she’ll be changing the world by her smiles, by her kindness, by her really wanting to make a difference a little by little. Kindness counts. And she was in– I think it was kindergarten, they have you do a little poster of the week. And it says, “If you could have one wish, what would it be?” And her wish was, “I wish for everybody in the whole world to have a warm coat because it could get cold.”
JK: Oh, my gosh. That’s beautiful.
EB: And I mean, and not to be mean, but a lot of kids are going to be like, “I wish that I could have as much ice cream as I wanted, that I could stay home and get [inaudible] from my mom.” And I mean, it wasn’t being prompted. It was, “What do you want to change?” Sometimes she’ll say, “I’m just–” she came home and she said, “I’m so upset. I went to an assembly at school, mom. And they were talking about Hurricane Maria. And I just very upset because we didn’t do anything to help.” And I said, “Oh, no, no, honey, you decided for your birthday that you want to donate money to hurricane relief.” But she’s like, “Oh, if I feel better now. I was feeling very selfish.” So again, it’s just little kids think, “What can I do?” And I always say, “It doesn’t have to be major. You gave a note. You smiled, lonely people. But again she knows she’s going to get gifts from her grandparents. There’s no way grandma and grandpa aren’t going to give you gifts. But your friends, we’ve had a few friends say, “Can I please give her a gift?” My daughter really wants something that she has for Audrey. And I believe giving a gift is so exciting. When you find just the right gift and you give it, that is, “I love giving.” But when – as we do so much nowadays – we are going to a party, you didn’t give a gift to nine-year-old Audrey. You gave a gift to a nine-year-old girl. if you don’t have your heart in and if you don’t know what to give my child, I’m not being mean. There’s people that need it more than we do. If you’re feeling excited and your heart says, “I have to give this gift to somebody,” and you’re going to be excited to then open it, I don’t want to stand in your way. However, if we’re doing because we have to do, the people that need– I mean, it sounds silly, but that’s how kids can help. Donate books. Collect books.
JK: I’m so glad you mentioned this. I actually wrote a blog article several years ago that I’ll put in the show notes about obligation and giving. I really do feel like obligation restricts you from generosity. Yes, you’re giving and that’s generous. But when it’s coming from your heart, like you said, it’s even more powerful.
EB: Yeah, I mean. I feel like people think they have to do it, and it’s like you can tell when it’s an obligation. And in this day and age, those people that need that spend that X amount of money that you feel if you have to give me a candle because you’re coming to my house for dinner, not to be mean, that’s $5. I don’t need a candle. You don’t actually think I want the candle. You’re being polite, and I appreciate it. But that’s $5, that’s some Rice-A-Roni. I mean, that’s vitamins. It’s actually funny. There’s somebody begging on the street for money and such, and I went into CBS, and they had kids. And I gave them sunblock and I gave them– I said, “Here’s some sunblock. Here’s some vitamins. Here’s some diapers.” And I even went to the Dollar store because they had their kids with them begging and said, “Since you have to sit out in the street, here’s some fun things to play with. I mean, I gave them food. I gave them stuff, but it was sort of like, “Okay, as long as you”– I mean, again, it sounds silly, but these kids, I mean, it was hot out and they couldn’t afford to give them a sunblock. You could see these little sunburned kids. And I was like– so again, it’s not about being show. It’s not about having one charity you love. It’s saying, “Somebody somehow needs me, what can I do? How can we scoop in and fix the situation? Not fix it, but I guess just help. Just show you care. Just looking people in the eye if they’re begging for money. If you don’t have any money to give, show them respect. They’re human beings. Be honest. “I’m sorry. I don’t have any cash on me.” Except when they come and they bother my children, I’m sorry, I think it’s very inappropriate to grab onto children. We had that happen when we were in Austin. Ask me, I’m an adult, but please don’t– I mean, it can be scary to children.
JK: Right. So there’s a respect.
EB: There should be respect for everybody, whether or not they’re the president of the company or they’re the lowly mail person. Everybody deserves respect. And I think you can judge a person not by how they treat someone they can get something from, but how you treat somebody that you don’t believe you can get anything from.
JK: That’s great.
EB: I think that’s it. Value is not in how much money you bring home or how fancy your job is. Value is in your existence.
JK: Well, I love how you were mentioning in your previous story about how when Audrey was three years old and she said to you, “No, mommy, we have to get this train set for our friend because he’s really going to like it.” And you listened to your daughter and you respected her opinion instead of saying, “No, we’re not doing that. You’re bothering me.” Your focus really was on her heart and what her intentions were.
EB: And then every year at Christmas, I don’t just say, “Here’s money.” I mean, they each get to say a charity, they’re interested in. So Audrey might say, “I like animals.” And we will go on Charity Navigator and we will pick a charity. And she knows that every year, one for Christmas presents is $25 to a charity as long as she does research with me or does her own. That’s where it goes. Every year, we want to help and that is a birthday present. They have $25 to spend on a charity that matters to them.
JK: Oh, my friend, I’m going to be copying that idea. I didn’t even think about that. What a wonderful idea.
EB: And again, I don’t tell them. It’s funny because every year we each have our money. My husband has his charity groups. I have mine and the girls have theirs. And my whole thing is research your own. I mean I’ll help you with it but you don’t have to have the same priorities that I have. Sometimes [inaudible] in my head, I think, “Oh, there’s so many better options than that.” But at the same time, it’s in her heart. Her sister and her don’t pick the same charities. I don’t pick this in charity. But I’m not doing it for you. Audrey has a great idea. I want to do an art show. I’ll go. I’ll buy her the supplies, but I’m not going to tell her how to do the art. This year for her art show, I am going to be donating things to it. And we’ve had a few friends that asked if they could donate. We said, “As long as you don’t expect a profit because we’re not keeping a profit.” So this year we’ll be expanding. It might even be partially online. But other kids that want you can participate. I am donating a few things to it and it’s just to have a nice big art show and everything is suggested donations, which I think is important. So I think our big thing is everything is– we can’t assume everybody has what we have. Even in a town like Acton, we forget the people don’t have. So let’s focus on suggested or if you can, as opposed to highlighting the haves and the have-nots. Inclusiveness, right? We need to include everybody, as many people as we can.
JK: Excellent. That’s one of the things I’ve been talking about is that some people don’t know where to start. And so when we come back from this break, I’m going to ask you guys, how can people get started and what your advice is? So let’s be right back.
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JK: And we’re back. And we’re here with Audrey, who’s nine, and Erin, her mom, who’s helped her be a philanthropist. But I think Erin would agree that her daughter has helped her be a philanthropist, too.
EB: Without a doubt.
JK: Audrey, I’d like to hear what your advice is to people who don’t know how to get started with giving.
AB: Follow your heart.
JK: Follow your heart.
AB: Heart tells you that is the right thing. Make sure it is in your mind, and if you have that, go with it.
JK: Oh, my gosh. I couldn’t have put it better, Audrey. That is just beautiful. Go with what’s in your heart.
AB: As long as it’s not bullying somebody.
JK: That’s true. That’s true. Go with the good decisions that you’re that your brain comes up with. Right? Yeah.
AB: Actually, if there’s really, really, really good.
JK: I bet everybody has really good ideas. But for some reason, they can’t follow them.
AB: Follow them.
JK: Great advice. Erin, what would you say for either parents who haven’t thought about incorporating philanthropy into their children’s lives or adults who also don’t know how to get started?
EB: I think, as a parent, you just do good. I mean, it sounds silly. But just let your– it’s like they say, your children to witness you praising them, but trying to not saying to them, you’re saying it near them. Let them see you doing good things. Then they’ll start to get the idea. You can ask them what interests them. As I said, I started saying, “Now that we know that there are some problems. So what interests you?” And I give them money toward that. Again, listen and encourage. But for little ones, an easy thing is when you go to the grocery store, buy things, and you make sure your children see, “Some people don’t have this. So let’s donate.” I think it sounds silly. But you’re modeling it. They may not do it the same way, but may not do it the same way, but make them aware that we have to give. When they were really little, I had the kids make sure that they waved back at people and smiled at people. It sounds creepy and weird. But I was partially raised by my grandparents, and so I especially love old people, and they just took joy. They just enjoyed it. Last week we were at Castle Island, and there was a little girl. And I’m assuming she’s having trouble with quarantine because she almost knocked over one of my kids just to get close and say hi to the other one because she probably doesn’t have kids her age she sees. So it sounds silly, but kindness. Just smile. For children, it’s difficult. I know my kids and other little kids I work with said, “Well, I can’t do anything. I don’t like the president. I hear all these things. I can’t with COVID.” What can you do? You can spread kindness. You can’t vote in an election. Maybe you’re too young to write a book or…–Smile. Be kind, make life easier for anybody around you. Welcome new kids into your classroom. That’s kindness. Make sure everyone has a place to sit. That’s philanthropy. From your heart, that’s warming people up. When you can do that, great. If not, there’s the charity bins. That’s where you could start. There’s the book drives. I mean, there’s so many directed things that you can start with until you figure out how you’re going to make use of it.
JK: It’s interesting. You bring up a good point about how important children smiling at adults, particularly elderly people. But there’s more excitement when a child smiles at you than when an adult is. Wouldn’t you agree with that?
EB: Oh, without a doubt. People think I’m weird because…, “Oh, are you…?” “Oh, no, I was just smiling at you.” I mean, because that’s just how I’ve always been smiling and nice. They’re just like, “We know you’re not from here.” But again, it’s not, quote-unquote, “weird” for a child to bring that joy. And what we don’t know as time goes on that the elderly are getting more and more isolated. And so, again, it’s a little smile. It’s the little things. Like I said, it means nothing or very little to you. It costs nothing. And it’s not a big deal to you. But it could mean the world. You don’t know who’s had a bad day, who’s lonely, and things like that. It matters to other people. And as much as we’re isolated from our community, it’s a big thing. You’re having a bad day, and a little kid gives you a weird smile or a cute smile or a thumbs up. It just brightens your day.
JK: It really does. It is something about the power of a child’s smile that no one can resist. Audrey, you’ve got a beautiful smile. You’ve got a beautiful heart. I’m so thankful you shared with us today and brought your mom here to share more about how she’s helped you learn the value of philanthropy. And actually, I think you’ve helped her learn the value of what it means to be a philanthropist. Philanthropist is a big word, isn’t it?
EB: I know you’re not going to answer. Is that a good word?
AB: Yeah. It’s big, but it’s also little.
JK: But do you think you are one? Are you a philanthropist?
AB: I don’t think myself as someone actually.
JK: Say it again. I’m sorry. I couldn’t hear you.
AB: I don’t actually think of myself as one. I just do it. Oh, I’m doing something kind, whatever.
EB: Does make you feel good that you’re helping others?
AB: Basically, good. It’s just I don’t actually realize it, really.
JK: You’re just natural at it.
AB: Because I’m just doing it, and then I’m like, “Oh, I’m doing something good. Oh, yay, I’m doing something good,” whatever.
EB: It’s not it happens to help somebody, it’s, “Well, why wouldn’t I?” Of course, I would. I want to share. I want to– what do you mean, “Thanks for doing that?” Why wouldn’t I do that? Because that’s just–you know?
JK: Well, Erin, we didn’t get to talk today about how you’ve supported the Acton-Boxborough schools. But I can only imagine the impact you’ve had on other children through the Parent Teachers Association. So I want to thank you guys for coming here today. I learned so much, particularly about the power of a smile, particularly from a child, about how philanthropy can start as young as three years old like you, Audrey. And I hope that other adults and children feel inspired by you. Thank you for being here.
EB: Thank you for having us.
AB: Bye. Thanks. Thanks for letting me be in this podcast. Thank you. Bye.
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