THE ‘NETTE EFFECT: Better way than begging
THE LITTLE BOY skipped towards me, his face lit with expectancy. Then he posed his question, hoping for the appropriate response. He got it and danced off.
Another time and place. A little girl approached. She had the same air of expectancy. Her bright smile and polite attitude worked in her favour. Satisfied, she briskly walked off, no doubt towards her other target.
Most times in these situations I look around for the adults who should be accompanying these brave but oh so vulnerable children and usually there are none.
Time and time again the scenario repeats itself: boys and girls of tender age with sheets of paper in hand approach strangers soliciting money.
There are countless other times when you see these children outside business places, especially supermarkets, entreating adults to support their fund-raising efforts by tossing some cash their way.
Sometimes I would quiz these young ones about why they were asking for money, how long they were there and if they did not have an adult with them. Occasionally, some would say that their parents were returning for them.
This disturbs me. I would agree with the assertion that Barbados is relatively safe for our children, but we should not always take this safety record for granted.
Oftentimes some parents will take on the burden of collecting the money or take the expensive way out and donate the full sum of money required.
Most tell me this is because they don’t want the young ones begging for money, that it doesn’t send the right message.
There are two fears in this situation, one a clear and present danger, the other long-term side effects of nurturing a particular mindset.
Of course, the immediate danger is that some pervert could lure the children away with the promise of money and commit unspeakable acts on them.
There are other corruptible influences out there that may accompany the appeal of easy money.
My other concern is the mistaken impression created in the minds of the children that is it okay to beg for money. Some of the less honest ones may, after legitimately securing money, transform this method into a way of getting something for nothing when they become adults.
Last week I wrote about the beggars who besiege customers sometimes with requests for the most ludicrous amounts without a second thought for how hard the other person has worked for the money.
However, in the case of children, I believe it is important to teach them the value of money and earning it. There are supervised ways for children to earn money and learn life’s lessons in the process.
They are the tried and true car wash, book sale or bottle collection for recycling. In the case of the latter within that simple act of bottle collecting are several important features of good living.
The amount of money is tied to the number of bottles collected and so it keeps the child busy for a while.
By collecting the bottles, the child is also securing its own future. The environment is protected from blocked drains that lead to flooding and the accompanying human misery.
This enterprise allows for instant gratification through the monetary reward. Then there are the other far-reaching environmental benefits.
Not every lesson will be learnt the hard way and not every lesson will be learnt the easy way.
• Antoinette Connell is DAILY NATION editor.