Generosity is BIG this time of year. For some reason, in December, it seems much easier to spend money, make donations and even purchase things for myself! It’s almost as if we’re given “permission” to be generous. To think outside of ourselves – our needs, our routines, our people. It feels soul-satisfying to give as though, the more we give away, the more peace and enjoyment we receive! Win-Win!
A couple of years ago as the holiday season commenced, I remember looking at my stack of donation requests: Local food shelves, homeless shelters providing meals and housing, kids who needed sponsors so they could have the funding to go to school, Christmas gifts for families in need, Go-Fund Me options for a multitude of people I did and didn’t know… I wanted to give to ALL of them, but money was squeaky tight and that holiday season was already going to be a lean one.
I remember thinking, “Ahhhhh! It’s not fair. I don’t even have anything to give!”
I’m still not certain if it was self-pity or honest prayer. More likely, it was a mix of both. Frustration gave way to tears of discouragement. I desperately wanted to give, I just… couldn’t.
The first heavy snow had whitened the landscape outside and my kids wanted to go out and enjoy it. I opened our living room storage closet and shouted, “Come try on your snow stuff! I don’t even know what size you are in now!” And I proceeded to pull out bag after bin after heavy laden hanger, all filled with winter gear in various sizes. Most things, I had 3 or more in the same size – all of which I had been gifted or given. I stood stunned at the abundance before me. I had purchased almost nothing in this great pile of winter coats, snow pants, hats, gloves and boots.
It was in the quiet of that frenzied moment that I heard my own voice echo back, “I don’t even have anything to give!” Or did I?
That mound of winter gear held for me a great lesson. I had way more than I needed and it was time to share. From shame at my rash judgment to disbelief at my narrow-mindedness, excitement overtook them both at the realization of what was about to happen.
“Kids,” I announced, “we have work to do!” And I began casting the vision of The Great Give-Away. Little hands set to work, picking out all the things we would share with someone else. “We could give this!” and “This would fit another little girl!” And my favorite, “I LOVE this – we should give it away, too!”
Something heart-changing takes place in the act of giving. It’s contagious and invigorating! Within the hour, I had contacted our local homeless shelter. We loaded up the van – kids and all – and brought 3 huge garbage bags full of winter-warmth that very afternoon. Bursting with joy, I cried all the way home, smiling and waving at everyone I saw. My heart was overflowing even though my bank account wasn’t.
Let me be straight with you: Money is a great thing to give away. It’s easy, tangible and always useable to charities. But when you give money away – including making purchases – be sure to make it count! Below are some ways to do just that!
- Buy from local and small businesses: This year we bought gift cards from our favorite local coffee shop as stocking-stuffers. Find some family owned restaurants to support or look around your neighborhood to see what else you can find in your own backyard! Or check out this list by TCMC: 100 Local Businesses You Can Support Now.
- Buy gifts that double the impact: Purchases made through Trades of Hope not only brings beautiful, handmade goods to my door, but each purchase helps women and families all across the world earn income through sustainable businesses and find their way out of slave labor and human trafficking. Last year I bought my conservation-minded daughter a bracelet that went to help out sea turtles. She even has a code to track her very own sea turtle, Bortie! Choose gifts to purchase that can also benefit a noble cause and double your impact.
- Make a donation in someone’s honor: One year, I bought seeds for a family in Africa to plant a full garden the next year, and I did it as a gift to my sister. We both cried! Compassion International is one such charity, but there are many more. Have a pet-lover? Match the gift to the giver by donating to the Humane Society or another pet-focused association! Don’t know one? Google it!
But money isn’t the only thing that is give-away worthy. During this season of generosity, please consider these other things that can be given away:
- Clothing/apparel: It may still fit, but do you really need 15 sweatshirts? Or could you share those things with someone else? When you’re done with your maternity clothes or your kids have grown out of their pants…. again, can you find someone in your life to gift them to that may really like or need them?
- Time/Attention: Set an hour up to call or FaceTime a friend or family member. Time spent with someone is an investment in both health and happiness! When we take time for someone else, we are showing them value. It could be a short conversation to tell a funny story or a long catch up session with a friend. Who do you want to invest in today?
- Meals: There is a little Italian grandmother stuck inside me that wants to feed people. Since I don’t have the skills to cook as gourmet as an Italian grandmother, I just go for quantity on the meals I KNOW I can cook! There are certain recipes I automatically double. Then, I call up a friend and ask if they want dinner dropped by their house tonight – fully prepared. (I have yet to be refused!)
- Forgiveness: Forgiveness brings freedom and a peace like none other. Is there someone to whom you can extend forgiveness? It will benefit you as much as them.
- Kind words: Said in person, a spur of the moment text, or a letter sent through mail – words are one of the most impactful things we give away! How many times have you thought about someone, but didn’t tell them? Or liked a new haircut of a friend or stranger, but decided against mentioning it? Kind words are like verbal hugs – and they are safe, socially distanced and most often deeply appreciated.
Friends, let’s make generosity a mindset and a lifestyle, not just a season. Live it. Practice it. Do it WITH your kids, not just in front of them!
Is it time to have a Great Give-Away of your own? What type of generosity are you practicing these days?