Tom and I were talking yesterday at breakfast about his life’s current ambition: He wants to succeed Davy Arnaud, the Kansas City Wizards center midfielder whose strong, accurate boot and tenacious defensive play often spell the difference in important games.
Tom’s infatuation with Davy isn’t surprising. The night before, we’d joined more than 10,000 fellow fans at a sold out Community America Ballpark for the nationally televised match against the New York Red Bulls. The Wizards won 1-0 and climbed to first place in Major League Soccer’s Eastern Conference.
In his zeal to succeed Davy, Tom’s usually sharp math skills escaped him. He’ll be too young to take Davy’s place when he retires, a fact I didn’t have the heart to point out.
Yet Tom’s no soccer slouch. He can dribble and defend as well as any 6-year-old, a fact that made his next words even more surprising.
“I want to be like Davy …” he said, his voice trailing off as the doubt crept in. “But I don’t know if I can do it.”
“What do you mean?” I asked, trying to hide my surprise at the crack in his usually confident armor.
“He’s really good, Dad,” Tom replied. “I don’t know all the tricks he does.”
A grin spread across my face as I patted Tom on the back and said he had plenty of years to develop his soccer skills and master the “tricks” that so enamored him. My fatherly reassurance worked, and Tom finished breakfast and headed off to school.
Then it struck me. Tom’s passion for his favorite hero – who today is a professional athlete but next week will be another superstar on his life’s stage – reminded of a truly important role to model for children.
Kids want to emulate people who are successful and attractive. There’s nothing wrong with aspiring to be a professional athlete, but the chances of making that mark are slim at best.
Yet everybody can be a philanthropist. And if you look around our community, plenty of people and organizations are helping children hone their giving skills.
Several kids a month raise money for the Kansas City Zoo, said Director of Development Laura Berger. Earlier this month, a boy sold his old toys in a garage sale and donated the proceeds – more than $100 – to the zoo’s forthcoming penguin exhibit. In March, a girl raised and gave more than $500 to the zoo, and those attending a pair of brothers’ birthday parties each of the last four years have made gifts to the zoo instead of buying presents.
“Philanthropy can start at any age and any amount,” Zoo Director Randy Wisthoff said.
Boy Scout Troop 228 does its part to teach boys about philanthropy. Last Saturday, scouts distributed 1,500 grocery sacks with notes requesting food donations. Today, they’ll collect, box and deliver the food to the Community Services League Pantry at Abiding Savior Lutheran Church in Independence.
“This is the fun part of Scouting for Food,” Lowell Brenton, Troop 228 assistant committee chair and former scoutmaster, said of the annual drive, which last year collected more than 50 boxes of food for those in need.
If Tom’s infatuation with Davy Arnaud lasts, I’m confident his mental calculator will lead him to discover the timing is out of joint for his MLS career ambition.
In the meantime, I’m picking philanthropy as the aspiration that will serve him best.
A big part of fundraising is showing up and being available. I learned this lesson on a very memorable New Year’s Eve, a very long time ago.
As an eager young fundraiser working for Washburn University, I didn’t know that it was unusual still to be at work in the evening of December 31st. But, there I was.
Earlier that year, a graduate of Washburn University School of Law told me he was going to give a gift of land to his synagogue, a private K-12 school and Washburn. John Shamberg, who has since passed away, made millions of dollars for institutions all over the world, and he wanted to give a significant gift to organizations he valued. His 40 acres of land on the outskirts of Kansas City were valued at $450,000, and his intention was to give $150,000 each to three organizations.
He’d left the task to the last day of the year, but now he was ready to make it happen.