Five years ago, in response to the crazy “shopping for sales” days immediately following Thanksgiving (“Black Friday and Cyber Monday”), some caring folks at the 92nd Street Y in NYC created a partnership with other concerned folks at the United Nations Foundation, and a movement to create an international day of giving was born. GIVING TUESDAY (#GivingTuesday) brings attention to the giving spirit of the approaching holiday season while encouraging people to donate money to their favorite charities.
Giving Tuesday can be a catalyst to “keep giving” in the forefront of our minds. It does not matter whether or not the day is a designated for giving. Just think for a moment: what would our lives look like if EVERY day was a giving day? Can we imagine how our world would change if each of us focused on specific ways to give to others as we went through our “to do list” for the day?
As I think about this possibility, and how easy it is to make it a reality, I think of my father, of blessed memory, who died on November 29th, more than two decades ago. This year, November 29th happened to be Giving Tuesday.
I smile to myself as it is quite fitting. He was the most giving person I have ever known. He was someone whose life was dedicated to giving to and serving others. His reason for being was to demonstrate his deep love for his family, to have positive interactions with friends and strangers alike. He tried to make it possible for others to see the beauty in a day. He was dedicated to improve the welfare of his community. With admiration, many people referred to him as a “saint.” But I wonder if people used that term not only as a compliment but as a way that distanced him from the rest of us. He was unusual, yes, but he was not a saint. He was a loving, kind, compassionate, decent and generous person. Each of us can be that. That behavior does not need to be unusual when it is woven into our daily life fabric. We each have the capacity to reach out in some way to enhance the life of another living being.
Giving can take many forms. Money is just one form of giving, and don’t get me wrong…it is a VERY important way to give. But we live in a time when people want to receive (and give) in a way that makes them feel connected and part of a larger whole. My father never questioned his connection with others. Today, reports of people feeling lonely and disconnected are reaching new heights (in our “techno-connected world” it is amazing, really).
People are missing a sense of community and want REAL connection. That is why GIVING in ways where we connect with others is so important. Our body even changes for the better when we give to others. In previous newsletters, I have written about the “helper’s high.” Our physiology changes when we help others. Giving to others is not only good for them, it is GOOD for the giver.
When we think about our lives and consider ways we can give to others, the list can go on and on. Here are some of the ways to help others:
Spend time with people we love WITHOUT devices like smartphones in the mix.
Remember a friend’s favorite wine or candy or scent and send them a gift just like that.
Call and talk on the phone (instead of communicating via text or e-mail).
Walk or play with animals at a shelter.
Train your dog to be a therapy dog and visit hospitals, schools, colleges, or assisted living facilities.
Pick up groceries for our neighbor when we buy your own.
Compliment someone in a meaningful way.
Make dinner or offer to babysit for a parent who could use a break.
Ask for special, uninterrupted time to hear stories about someone’s life and really listen (and maybe take notes).
Call or send a hand written note to someone who has experienced a death of someone dear to them…and reach out again a couple of months later.
Ask for advice from someone you respect.
When on a crowded bus or train, offer your seat to another person who looks like they could use it.
Tell someone why and how they have made your life better or what you have learned from them or what you admire about them.
Ask a person who is alone to join you for a holiday dinner or a weekend event.
Offer to drive an older or person who has difficulty with transportation to a community event.
Hold the door for 3 people today and greet them with “hello,” or “how are you?”
Offer to let a person in line or to cut in front of you if you are driving. And SMILE when you do it.
Say something kind to the person who checks out your groceries or who is sitting next to you on the train or bus.
Send a card or flowers to someone who is going through a challenging time.
Grow your hair and donate it when it gets to a certain length.
Buy lottery tickets and give them out to strangers.
Offer to teach someone something you know that they want to know (tech skills, how to play a game, cooking their favorite recipe).
Donate books when you are finished reading them.
Rescue a pet.
Carry someone’s suitcase or package.
Help out a new co-worker.
Seek out a person who seems awkward or uncomfortable at a gathering or party.
Offer a flower to someone on the street.
Talk … really talk to a person who is homeless.
Say THANK YOU and PLEASE and mean it.
Cease complaining…when we stop complaining, it changes the energy around you and is one of the kindest things you can do for those nearby.
I hope this inspires you to act in a giving way. I would be interested in hearing about other expressions of kindness that touch our lives.