GratiTuesday: Giving Tuesday

This is a slightly updated reblog of last year’s post about Giving Tuesday. I hope you can participate in this global initiative.

Thank goodness we’ve all survived Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, (what, nothing for Sunday?), and Cyber Monday.  Today, as you may or may not know, is Giving Tuesday.

Since its launch in 2012, Giving Tuesday has been designated as a day when we can make up for the excesses of the past few days (and those coming up) by putting “our money where our hearts are.” It focuses on shifting the emphasis of the holiday season from receiving gifts to giving them to charity. In just a few years, Giving Tuesday has turned into a global movement which unites communities around the world. Last year, participants from more than 98 countries raised close to $200 million, and this year promises to be even better.

Although Giving Tuesday is about encouraging giving in general, the movement harnesses the power of social media (it even has its own hashtag, #GivingTuesday), to provide a platform for those interested in donating time, resources, and talent to address local challenges. Givers are encouraged to use the #GivingTuesday hashtag to share their efforts and spread the word about the day on their social media accounts.

The Giving Tuesday website provides more information about the movement and a directory to guide people to organizations, charities, events, and more in their own community. Through the website, Giving Tuesday “brings together the collective power of a unique blend of partners— nonprofits, civic organizations, businesses and corporations, as well as families and individuals—to encourage and amplify small acts of kindness.”

Whether you give through the website or give on your own, there are lots of ways to join in on this day of giving:

Donate to charity. If you have some extra money in your budget, make a donation to a charity of your choice. Or, think about rearranging your budget a bit: instead of buying that one extra Christmas present, devote those funds to a wider cause. You can stay local by giving to your community’s homeless shelter or food bank, or go national by contributing to well-known organizations, such as the American Diabetes Assn. or the Red Cross. (Be sure to check if your employer offers matching funds.)

Give a non-monetary gift. If you don’t have room in your budget, you can give in other ways. Donate your time by volunteering at a nearby animal shelter or soup kitchen. Sign up to become an organ donor. Give blood. The possibilities for good deeds are endless.

Go beyond charities. Remember that giving doesn’t have to be limited to charitable organizations. Give extra care and attention to your friends, family members, and neighbors. Spend time reading to a younger relative. Volunteer to finish off a project around the house.

Most important of all, let this day of philanthropy inspire more days of giving back.

I am so grateful for individuals and organizations that offer support to those who are struggling or who need resources to serve others. Giving Tuesday is a great way to find opportunities to give locally and/or globally. And, once you’ve given whatever money, time, or talent you can, don’t forget to use the #GivingTuesday hashtag and help spread the word!

GratiTuesday: Choosing kindness

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A few days ago, I was driving my car to a familiar destination. Because I had driven the route many, many times, my mind was on autopilot. My husband and I were chatting about this and that and I was thinking about that and this. In other words, I wasn’t paying attention.

All of a sudden, I realized that I had taken the wrong route. I was generally headed the right direction, but the street I was on wouldn’t get me to where I wanted to go. I needed to make a right turn, then a left to get back on track. No problem, except there was a line of cars in the right-hand turn lane and, in order to move into it, I needed someone to let me in.

Now, I have to admit that I usually get irritated with people in that situation: those jerks who don’t think they should have to wait their turn like the rest of us so they drive alongside the line of cars, then try to sneak in towards the front. When I see this happening, I’ll be damned if I will let them into the line and I get perturbed when someone rewards their jerky behavior by allowing them to merge.

Except, that wasn’t what had happened. I was just trying to recover from a momentary brain lapse and get back on the correct route. The road I was on wasn’t very busy (which, had I been paying adequate attention, should have been a clue that I was on the wrong street) and there wasn’t anyone in my rearview mirror so I slowed down and switched my signal on so I could move over into the turn lane.

Then, two things happened: a driver come up quickly behind me, honked his horn in irritation, and swerved around me so he could continue going straight, and another driver in the right turn line made room for me so I could merge in ahead of her. One chose to vent his frustrations at me by honking, whereas the other chose to be sympathetic and let me in ahead of her. One probably felt a moment of anger towards me for being in his way and causing him a two second delay. The other reacted with compassion and a smile.

I was a bonehead and the first driver was completely justified for honking at me. The second driver was by no means obligated to let me in. But, she chose to help me out; she chose kindness.

That little bitty, almost inconsequential interaction got me to thinking about the choices I make every day. Do I act with irritation, or do I act with understanding? Do I notice and respond when someone could use a hand, or do I remain unaware and go about my business? Do I attempt to ease someone’s path, or do I put up barriers? Do I choose indifference or do I choose caring?

I hope I make the right choice more often than not.

I am grateful for acts of kindness – both big and small, and whether it is directed at me or not. Kindness makes me hopeful and optimistic. It’s so easy to focus on the negative and painful but it’s important to remember that if I want more kindness in the world, I need to put it there.