Recently, we took our kids Grant and Lauren to Guatemala. We funded the building of a school with PoP and were going to see the project. They would see real poverty up close for the first time and we wanted it to be a meaningful experience for them. It was also near the week that my new McLaren sports car came in. The contradiction was not lost on me and set-off a flurry of internal reflection.
I had been looking forward to the Guatemala trip for weeks (months), knowing that my kids would finally see how a lot of the world lives. Born into privilege, their idea of poor was not getting a car when they turned 16. They are sheltered... sheltered by us, sheltered by our community, sheltered by our great country and I knew it. I had spent the last 15 years building a successful company and they were the beneficiaries (victims?) of it. I wanted to turn their view of reality on its head.
Once we arrived in Guatemala, Grant and Lauren adapted fast despite the extreme culture shock for them. They started interacting with the local kids and once someone found a soccer ball, every kid including mine, disappeared to the soccer field for quite some time. They were clearly enjoying themselves and at the same time changing their thoughts on 'poverty'. One of their first comments when we returned to our hotel was how happy everyone we met was despite their financial and even health circumstances. In Grant and Lauren's world where having (or not) the latest model iPhone was concerning, dare I say distressing, happiness while being extremely poor was a surprising concept for them. These were the exact reflections that I was hoping for. I know they will continue to process the trip in the coming years and I hope that it will impact the rest of their lives.
But when we returned home, my heart sank that I had potentially just undone their Guatemalan experiences. My new McLaren arrived at our house - red, shiny and clearly expensive. I struggled with what message it would send to my kids. Give back, go visit the poor and then return home as if it never existed? Would they see it as we have money because we are American and therefore entitled? Would it make the memory of our trip fade faster from their minds? Would they think that money grows on trees? Worse still, would they even realize the contradiction of it?
The excitement of my new car was dampened by all of these thoughts. The reality is that things were not always peachy. I worked my ass off, struggling for years to make Crown profitable. I missed birthdays, lacrosse games and cheerleading competitions. And there were still months where we weren't sure if the company would make it. Even in the final years of Crown before a successful sale to Razorfish/Publicis, there were dark weeks where Susan and I knew we were on the verge of losing everything if the bank didn’t extend the line of credit. Everything. The money did not grow on trees, but Susan and I chose to shield the kids from these dark moments. There was no use scaring them if we made it through to the other side.
After all of these years of hard work, I want to enjoy the fruits of my labor with toys like a McLaren. (I have a thing for fast boats, cars, etc if you don't already know!) So I have set a new challenge for my kids - to raise enough money on their own to build the next school with PoP. Let them see how hard it is to make/raise money and the joy of giving back. I'm not posting the link to their fundraising page because that would be cheating - they have to do it on their own.
So this blog is for them. Grant & Lauren - Work hard. Raise the money for our #2 PoP school. And then be proud that you helped others while learning to build your own enterprise.