I spent much of last evening and this morning helping my daughter Laura reflect on what she’s accomplished as a blogger this year and what she would like to do next in terms of helping others and learning more. These last ten months have been an interesting journey, and we’ve discovered a lot in the process.
Laura has learned a great deal about blogging, of course, and what began as a curiousity about the tool itself rapidly evolved into an appreciation for the people who power the web and an awareness of how different communities engage online. When she began her little project last December, Laura was hoping that she would be able to inspire others to join her in her efforts to make a difference. She didn’t understand the novelty of her blog at the time, and we weren’t aware of it either. As parents, we’ve been surprised by the reality that what Laura has done is unique in any way. Many children devote themselves to service work, and while Laura has received props for doing what she does, we all know that the only thing that may separate her from other kids who are trying to make a difference is the fact that she chose to blog about it publicly and people paid attention. Laura, her dad, and I have experienced some pretty mixed feelings about the level of attention she has received from her efforts, and in recent weeks, much conversation has unfolded at our dinner table over it all.
The fact is, Laura never wanted to do this thing alone. If this had been her intention, she never would have started a blog or invited readers to join her in her efforts. And while she has had many visitors and much encouragement from her readers, fewer people have ACTED in response to her work, and inspiring THIS has always been her greater goal. It remains her greatest challenge, and she talks about that often.
Last week, she spent some time thinking about the kind of service work that kids her age typically do. Many kids fundraise for different worthy purposes. Many organizations offer prizes to those who raise certain levels of money for those in need. This is a great thing. Last year, Laura decided to offer a prize to those who gave the most of themselves as well. She saw this as a good incentive. Some of her readers graciously matched her funds, and it was a bit of a thrill to give away those charitable donations. But her dad and I have remained unwilling to manage money in any way at all, and Laura has learned that these give-aways haven’t made the “most difference” in the end. People have. We believe that when it comes to asking our children to make a difference of some sort, supporting their service efforts should probably take precedent over raising money and generating prizes.
Last week, Laura shared her belief that too often, kids take part in service work ONLY when there is a chance that they may win a prize of some sort. This bothered her. In addition, her blog was starting to feel a bit more self-promotional than she was comfortable with as well. One of my proudest moments as a mom transpired yesterday, when Laura articulated the fact that giving shouldn’t be about earning prizes or rewards, and that she doesn’t intend to promote this sort of thing on her blog any more. It’s something I’ve been giving a lot of thought to lately myself, and it was a part of the decision-making that went into launching Working Together 2 Make a Difference with Jenny Luca. Had Laura been eager to continue offering give-aways on her own site, I would have supported her in that, but it turns out she isn’t. It turns out, in fact, that Laura would rather invest herself in the work of this new online community, because she is realizing that it has the potential to accomplish what her blog cannot: it can bring people together who want to do good things simply because they can and simply because it offers them a connection to those who share their values, not because there are other rewards attached to it.
We’re hoping that other students and teachers will get involved there. Please consider doing so if you haven’t yet. We’re looking for more than mere readers, and Laura is looking forward to meeting others who are interested in giving HER less attention and the WORK OF THE PROJECT more. We’re grateful that Jenny Luca gets this, and we’re hoping that many more great educators will as well!