A day or two ago, I heard someone on the radio talk about volunteering to hand out sacks of groceries at a food bank, only to have the food run out long before the needy people did. The volunteer was profoundly moved when she faced the next person in line and had to tell her she would have to go home empty-handed. There was no more food for her to take home to her family.
Charities have been struggling during the economic crisis as more and more people need their services.
Interestingly, at the same time that so many people are suffering, many people are giving more than ever before. A recent AP story, for instance, reported that in Seattle, Boeing Co. employees tripled their cash donations this year to Northwest Harvest, operator of Washington's largest food bank. Every week, Northwest Harvest spokeswoman Claire Acey says, companies call to say their employees have decided to skip their holiday party and buy food for the hungry instead. And the charities receiving increased donations are not all focussed on alleviating poverty. Even the American Heart Association says donations are up this year.
Helping the poor and hungry in your own communities may be as simple as donating something from your cart every time you go to the grocery store. Fat Guy on a Little Bike has put out the call nationally. C Meir talks about ways to do it easily if you live in the Washington, DC area (as I do).
Many people are "giving the gift of giving" this holiday season. Perhaps your mother (the teacher) would love a donation made in her honor to the local library, many of which have recently had their budgets decimated. Perhaps your uncle would appreciate a gift to hospice in memory of his wife. Maybe your fiber-obsessed grandmother or granddaughter would love a sheep from Heifer (to be donated to a community in the developing world rather than to be kept on Granny's urban patio). Perhaps your brother would just go nuts for egg-laying chickens (to be donated to struggling families in rural Appalachia).
Think of a few ways you can enjoy spending time with loved ones and new friends, helping both struggling individuals and the whole community. Donate some time serving meals at a soup kitchen. Take dinner and some holiday cheer to elderly or ill neighbors who can't get out. Celebrate our connection with those around us.
This beautiful post has other joyful giving ideas to inspire you to action.
Giving makes us feel good, and that joy often motivates me. And often I think about the Jewish concept of tikkun olam, or repair of the world. The idea is not identical to traditional notions of charity. Instead, tikkun olam is a combination of charity and justice. We give not because we are good but because we are human. We give because it is our responsibility. And now is the time to reflect on our role in the repair of the world--and to act.