A word on Giving Tuesday if you are one of the innately generous who is feeling just a tiny bit strapped this year. WE FEEL YOU. Please know that although it may seem like the major 'ask' from your favorite organizations is for cash right now, there are other, equally important ways you can give this season. Here are some ideas:
1) GIVE OF YOUR TIME
Volunteer in a way that feels safe to you. Grocery shop for a vulnerable neighbor, Zoom a lonely relative, babysit a friend's toddler, write thank you notes on behalf of your fave nonprofit, drop off holiday cookies to a neighbor, donate your professional services as a gift in kind, organize a fundraiser or community initiative. When you consider that time is the great equalizer and something we can never acquire more of, it is easier to understand the true value of this gift.
2) GIVE OF YOUR STUFF
Pack up a granola bar and clean socks with a sweet note for someone experiencing homelessness. Donate lightly worn bras to Free The Girls: Fight Human Trafficking, give your extra blankets and coats to a local shelter or organization in your town similar to His Urban Presence, donate outgrown kids things to a pregnancy center in your region like Choices - Woodland Park/Cripple Creek. A colleague reminded me recently that, "many in the U.S. have a lot of extra stuff, while others around us have a lot of extra need." As I look around my house and observe the packed boxes in my garage and closets, I have to agree. Our nation's association of consumer goods with worth and value constantly drives us to desire the next shiny thing. We desire the latest fashion, the most modern home, the most recent iPhone, the newest car...it feels like the list will never stop. Except that when we do stop and look around, many of us will find that we have much much more than we will ever truly need. Let's release some of that to others!
3) GIVE OF YOUR PRESENCE
Be intentional to stop what you are doing and play with your kids. Turn off the TV at night and engage with your partner. Spend that hour before work in the morning engaging with your Creator. Begin an Advent practice. Pray for others. Send a thoughtful card. Heck, go caroling (in masks). While time and presence may seem interchangeable, there is a difference. Presence is the active investment of all of ourselves, the offering of our entire mind, body, and spirit to the current moment and all that it contains. Those that have discovered how to live fully engaged within the present are truly living their best life. By the way, if you're looking for a good book on this, we highly recommend Shauna Niequist's Present Over Perfect.
4) GIVE OF YOUR FINANCES (CREATIVELY)
I have been praying for extra $$ this season, not only to make ends meet, but to allow our family to be more generous. Amazingly enough, we received our belated tax refund last week and it was much more than we anticipated. As a result, we have some unplanned money to give. We have also been selling things on FB Marketplace, personal shopping with Instacart, and know friends who are donating plasma in order to put food on the table and be able to give more away. The secret to this creative generosity is being intentional to look for extra finances in order to bless others rather than increase our own personal comfort. When we give from a place of sacrifice rather than excess, it actually increases our sense of well-being. Neuroscientists have conducted studies that demonstrate how giving to others lights up our brain's pleasure center in the same way that it would if we were the ones receiving the gift. If giving is proven to make us happier, why wouldn't we look for ways to be more financially generous this year?
Here are a few organizations I love to recommend (all of which I have personally known in some capacity). Each of these intersect directly with liberating individuals from poverty, oppression, and/or human trafficking. Please check them out! Heal & Thrive Global, Shining Light International, The Exodus Road, Unbridled ACTS, Dton Naam, His Urban Presence, The Joy Collective, Free the Girls, Just One Africa, Caroline's Promise, Preemptive Love, and Transforma.
5) GIVE OF YOUR....Well. JUST SHOP LOCALLY. You can do it.
While this seems like a no-brainer, it is really easy NOT to shop local. Amazon and a million online businesses are just a click away, and with so many offering free shipping, it is tempting to stay home in your stretchy pants and just shop from your computer. Well guess what?! Your local businesses have worked their tail-ends off getting more products, more food boards, and more experiences available to their beloved customers in an online format. Many are offering free delivery or curbside pickup. They are trying REALLY HARD to compete with huge entities like Amazon so that they will still be here when Covid is under control. We need to show up for them if we want to preserve the diversity of craft and culture they provide to our neighborhoods. We get it, shopping local with COVID restrictions is going to be a a real event this year. So why not treat it like one? Make a day of it. Blow out your hair, grab a coffee from your local roaster and schedule some personal shopping at your fave boutiques. Take a break for a well-deserved take-out lunch from a delicious non-chain restaurant, and you'll still have time for a few curbside pickups. Meanwhile, you can purchase gift cards from those incredible businesses you can't visit in person. The people on your list are going to thank you for presenting them with thoughtful, well-intentioned gifts this year, and your cities' entrepreneurs are going to name you a hero. You will be winning with this strategy, we assure you.
Meanwhile, Neema Development Co. would LOVE to hear other ideas of how your hearts are being engaged in practically loving others during a year that has been tough on many. Please feel free to share in the comments below how you and yours are engaging creative generosity during this season!