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The Blind Bags of Happiness?

We know that giving things to others brings us happiness There's a lot of research to support the notion that happiness comes from altruism and giving, rather than materialism and getting.

Lately, I've been reading about the Sioux Chief Ohiyesa who said, “It was our belief that the love of possessions is a weakness to be overcome. . . . Therefore, children must early learn the beauty of generosity. They are taught to give what they prize most, that they may taste the happiness of giving."

But, that's a hard lesson for kids to swallow. Georgie is expecting a "blind bag" in the mail today. That's a little LEGO bag with a mini-figure inside. You don't know which character it will be... and that seems to be the fun of it. At any rate, we predict that his first question after school will be, "Did it come yet?" (Thankfully it did.) And I can't imagine he'd agree to share it this afternoon, let alone give it away!

If your grandchildren are allowed to watch Youtube videos, there's a good chance they've seen blind bags and other such items on Toy Videos. Toy videos are wildly popular, and once you see one, others quickly pop up for viewing. While some seem quasi-educational and well done, there are others that are only there to influence our grandchildren to become consumers and focus on getting toys.

Certainly, advertising has been around as long as TV. But, the Youtube toy videos sometimes have toys embedded in the presentation... it's more subtle and it's really effective. While we haven't blocked these videos completely, we've been talking to Georgie about how the children in the videos are trying to sell him stuff. We're hoping he's learning, because lately he seems less interested in watching them.

For example, there's "Ryan's Toys Review" at the Children's Museum which the last time I checked had over 83 million views. That's right: His "Huge Egg Surprise" has over 1 1/2 billion views. Ryan is 7 years old. It's estimated that Ryan and his family have made millions of dollars playing with toys with a camera placed in front of him. And his video about finding the HUGE EGGS Surprise Toys Challenge was the 43rd most watched video of all time on Youtube!

There are 5 children in the "Family Fun Pack", which is another website that does blogs, toy reviews and challenges. They're very cute little millionaires, for sure! Toys Unlimited's "Paw Patrol Bath Time Finger-paint Activity" has over 85 million views and about 20 million viewers have seen the "Awesome Toys" video about feeding Mr. Play Doh Head.

Sponsors pay a lot to have the adorable children feature their products. The more a video is watched, the more money the child and family will make and the more little kids want the toys. It's win:win for the family and product makers. But, it can be nothing short of a nightmare for the viewers' families, who are confronted in a department store with passionately, screaming, kids who want a toy just like Ryan's.

You're probably thinking, why not just block these or turn off the screens? That's clearly the logical solution. But, with billions of views it doesn't seem to be the reality of what's happening. Young kids are learning about acquiring things, not tasting the beauty of giving.

And here's the irony: A lot of adults are doing just the opposite for themselves. They are trying to purge themselves of stuff. Adults are really into Youtube videos about the value of giving things away! And there are some really popular speakers who have millions of followers with messages that are the exact opposite of what the little children are viewing.

For example, the iconic motivational speaker Tony Robbins tells the story about how he was living in a 400 square foot home in California. He was nearly broke and gave his last cent to a boy in a restaurant. It made him feel wonderful to help this child take his mom to dinner. When Tony got home, there was, coincidentally, a substantial check waiting for him. It's a powerful story that he's never forgotten. The message is all about how giving away something valuable brings the taste of satisfaction and happiness.

I recently discovered another popular speaker, Gaur Gopal das who had 21 million views on a single Facebook post. And he has many posts. His message is simple. "Whether you drive a Bentley or a Volkswagen, the road remains the same... You must divide to multiply. If you give away, you will feel satisfaction." He explains that we're so interested in increasing our standard of living that we're compromising the standard of our life. And it's the standard of our life that makes us happy.

It may be an oversimplification, but it feels as though society is promoting two opposite messages at the same time... and the wrong message is being internalized by toddlers and kids. Aren't we setting them up to "want" rather than "give?" Are a lot of young children being influenced in a direction that may need to be undone, on their way to becoming adults? Seems like it.

Just today, on the front page of our local newspaper there's an article about a couple of Intermediate School girls who are "spreading kindness to their classmates and beyond," by decorating small glass jars and filling them with positive and inspirational notes. They planned to put the jars around the schools. They didn't say what was written inside and I wonder if it's been effective.

The jars seem a little like blind bags. The fun is seeing what's inside!

Maybe the girls experienced a taste of happiness in giving the jars away. What do you think?

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