Keep the Sacred in the Giving
I do try to keep the giving of thanks in mind at Thanksgiving, as in my Thanksgiving post on gratitude, as in calling to mind that day each person in my life that I am indeed grateful for, honoring in my mind and heart who they are and the love-kindness-generosity-courage-vulnerability-honesty they embody and express in our world. (As well as the good food, good company, good conversations of the season, of course.)
Then the next-day media bombardment of Black Friday, barely restrained by the bookends of Thanksgiving before and Hanukkah-winter solstice-Christmas on the other side of some rather relentless pressure to shop til you drop. (Remember that in 2001 President Bush called on Americans, in response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks, to move past the tragedy and overcome their fears by spending money to spur the economy.)
And then the nobly-motivated Giving Tuesday the following week. A 10-year-old movement to encourage people to volunteer, contribute, collaborate to provide opportunity and equity around the globe. The movement does hope to inspire generosity as a practice of everyday life. And while each individual request can be faultless – good non-profits doing good every day of the year – the social media bombardment of requests all in one day can begin to feel like a deluge.
American do have a tradition of giving – often quite generously – toward the end of the calendar year to receive tax breaks for their charitable contributions, and those tax breaks are a welcome acknowledgement of the recognition that, indeed, we are all linked together in one circle of humanity.
I was encouraged, in Zooming with a good friend in Chicago earlier this week, to learn that she and her grand-daughters were able to participate in a giving program sponsored by their local church, of actually shopping for a designated family’s shopping list, and the 8 and 11-year old grand-daughters could learn something about the joy of generosity as they chose the coats and boots and hair-ties and socks they selected to gift this family.
In truth, generosity is an important anchor for our resilience and well-being, especially if it generates a genuine sense of connection with other people and a sense of the sacredness inherent in all of life.
When I start to feel overwhelmed with the daily solicitations, all by worthy organizations whose causes I believe in and would like to support, I turn to Charity Navigator, a 20-year old non-profit organization that provides free access to its data base of 200,000 charities, large and small, well-known and unknown, with annual measures of fiscal transparency, efficiency, accountability, and the impact of services for recipients, “not just where the dollars go but what the dollars do.”
Through researching the causes I’m interested in, I find small, 100% 4-star groups like Water for South Sudan and Americans for Immigrant Justice, all highly rated for their across the board excellence and trustworthiness.
This gifting season, you may choose to donate to your local food bank or volunteer tutoring literacy in a local school. You certainly don’t have to consult a resource like Charity Navigator or read every solicitation you find in your mailbox or your inbox this year to guide your impulses for keeping the sacred in your giving. But generosity, any day of the year, is an essential part of our resources for recovering resilience; it allows us to remember the sacredness that binds us to each other. May you find your way to a clarity in that remembering and honoring.