Monday, November 8, 2010

Learning from Selling Raffle Tickets

Okay. In my world, there's really no joy in raffle ticket selling. But, because it's important for Helios' school, we do it. On behalf of his small private school, Helios sold raffle tickets for several weeks. We reached out to our family and friends, inviting them to participate and many have generously supported Helios' efforts. Helios, however, is competitive and he wants to sell more in hopes he'll be one of the top 10 sellers and win a prize. So, one afternoon we took advantage of an opportunity to sit outside a local grocery store to sell tickets.

My feelings are quite mixed when it comes to having our children sell things on behalf of the school. Although the most successful children do directly benefit through winning prizes, we would arguably rather pay higher tuition or do it ourselves rather than have the children do it. I'm not sure what is behind my prejudice except it probably is a combination of the way I was raised (my parents were dead set against children ever selling) and a preference that children spend know...learning. Not selling, in spite of how cute they may be behind a table.

That said, Helios wanted to sell so we helped create those opportunities for him. And I was quite inspired, to be honest. Here is a 6-year-old little boy who, without fear, boldly approaches strangers who barely acknowledge his existence and politely asks, "excuse me, may I tell you about my school's raffle?" No matter what response he receives, whether someone ignores him entirely or simply declines, Helios promptly replies with, "thank you for your time."

Sure, Helios was coached in how to be polite and what to say. We figure if he wants the prize, he's actually going to do the selling, not the parents. And we're not going to passively sell by sitting behind a table - we're going to actively sell by engaging with others. So Helios has received help -- but it's his touching observations, his inquisitiveness, and the good conversations we've had that really makes a somewhat unlikeable task worthwhile. His questions have ranged from "why won't people stop to listen to me?" to "why wouldn't they want these great prizes?" to "should they be going to a grocery store and spending money if they're telling me don't have money to buy tickets?" Each question carries with it the opportunity to impart a small lesson, a little value that hopefully will stick.

However, what's most rousing is his willingness to keep trying no matter how many "nos" he receives that truly makes the experience worthwhile. Although he's occasionally felt discouraged and had his head down, he will pop back up again and approach the next person, eventually getting a sale that allows him to ride on that success through all the "nos" until he gets another sale.

And that's where I find a learning experience in these raffle ticket sales - not because it's important to the school or because Helios will likely earn a prize that we could've purchased for him at significantly less than our time is worth. But because it has surprised me by providing an opportunity to help my son have a different perspective and watch him manage his own disappointments and insecurities. It's also been inspiring to me -- having a 6-yr-old be told "no" many times in an hour is so much harder for him than life's daily pitfalls are to me, and yet he keeps plugging away at it far better than I sometimes do.

That said, I still look forward to the next fundraiser -- a jog-a-thon!
Postscript: Thanks to the generosity of Helios' friends and family, not to mention his hard work, he was ranked #3 in overall sales, bringing in almost $700. (The first and second place sellers each brought in more than $1100.)

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