Do you remember the first time you were motivated to flex your philanthropic muscle? Years from now, 7-year-old John Shattuck will remember the Christmas when he was inspired to give away the allowance he had saved and the miracle that happened shortly thereafter.
“Last December was a tough time for our family, when my 73-year-old father was diagnosed with COVID and entered Guthrie Robert Packer Hospital,” explains Kate Shattuck, John’s mother. Shattuck’s six children, who are close to the grandfather they call “Jajie,” were especially upset. “We all had questions, but John, who is the youngest, cut right to the chase. ‘Is Jajie going to die?’ he asked.”
Kate and her husband did their best to explain what they knew, but in honesty, they had to confirm that was a possibility. “It was a scary time because no one knew what could happen. What really made a difference was that the nurses helped my dad use an iPad so we could see and talk to him during his hospital stay,” Kate says. “It encouraged us because we could all see his progress, and I think that communication also helped Dad.”
During that time, the Shattucks had their annual meeting with their children to discuss Christmas giving. It has been their practice to give a weekly allowance to their school-age children. The caveat is that the allowance must be divided into portions to save, spend, share, and fund college. “The December meeting is a time when we discuss where each of us wants to help the community.
“It was an extraordinary moment that made me realize that as a young boy, John is already thinking deeply about others.”
Each child gets to decide where they are going to give their ‘share’ money,” Kate says. “It’s a sweet part of our family tradition at a time of year that is all about the spirit of giving.” John heard his brother and sisters talk about their gifts to a food pantry, a Boy Scout troop, the St. Agnes school (where John is a first grader), and two educational organizations. Over the year, he had dutifully portioned a little over a dollar each week to his “share” container and added some birthday and gift money for a total of $73. “When it was his turn to share, John told us he was giving his money to ‘Jajie’s hospital,’” Kate says.
“It was an extraordinary moment that made me realize that as a young boy, John is already thinking deeply about others, about sharing, and how to show thankfulness.” Shortly after that, and just in time for Christmas, Jajie came home in good health. “It was our own Christmas miracle, and when my dad learned about John’s donation, it made him feel very proud and very loved,” she says.
As the new year began, saving started all over again for the Shattuck children. John eagerly awaits each Saturday morning when he receives his $7 for the week. He has his eye on some more Legos, for which he will use his “spending” money. But for his “sharing” money, he is not thinking yet about where that will go. He is just proud that, week by week, he adds some more of his allowance to that container and watches it grow.
“Philanthropy is about training that muscle to become strong over time,” Kate says. “My husband and I believe that by helping our kids develop that muscle while they are young, we’re raising kids who will take pride in being responsible community members.”