Lessons Learned: Giving versus Guilting

The holiday season is also considered the giving season. The Salvation Army has their red kettles out, Toys for Tots is in full swing, and Adopt a Family connects people or businesses with families in need. On top of the traditional holiday charities, there are also the other organizations vying for money by offering free Christmas cards, calendars, or address labels. So how do you know which ones to give to, how much to give, or how often? Only you can decide how you want to handle your donations. The premise is not to feel bad if you can’t give to all. The idea is that you want to give to the organization, not be guilted into giving.

I’ve been bombarded with charities and organizations asking for money. Some I get annoyed with when they continue to pester me. For the ones who call on the phone, I don’t appreciate when they start the conversation with a casual laugh and make the comment how I’m super hard to get a hold of, like I’m their personal friend—I had three calls like this within a 48 hour time period. Or they send a “bill” by mail, making it look like the payment is past due when I never agreed to send anything. For these charities, I keep them at the bottom of my list.

For the season, and even for the next year, I’ve decided to make a list of those charities or organizations that are important to me. I like to donate to local organizations or ones that I know will directly benefit others, like the hospice center that took care of my brother in his final weeks. I know they use the money for patients who can’t afford their medical expenses. I’ll add new organizations, both local and national, to my list and drop others that I’ve given to in the past.

By focusing on the names on my list, I won’t let other organizations guilt me. I know that I’m giving to those that I’ve chosen and to those who I feel will appreciate it (I’m not a number and the money isn’t going to administrative expenses). And remember, there’s still those spur-of-the-moment gifts that don’t fall into this category, like the policeman who bought socks and boots for the homeless man. His gift-giving was truly priceless.

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Lesson Learned: Giving a little can mean a lot.

This is the time of year when the red kettles come out, requests come in the mail for donations, and the mitten trees sprout in hallways at work. We buy presents for our families, secret Santa, and those we care about. We are reminded of the spirit of giving. Not everybody celebrates Christmas, but we can all benefit from the holiday season to help.

Many years ago, I was barely making ends meet as a single mom. When my parents asked me what I wanted for Christmas, I told them that I didn’t need anything, but I would really appreciate if my dad could make bunk beds for my kids. I wanted their mattresses off the floor. My dad made me nice, simple beds. That was the best present ever. Later that year, I had a temporary job where one of my co-workers realized that I didn’t have money for food until the next paycheck. He wanted to buy me groceries. My pride prevented me from accepting his offer. However, I did go to the food shelf after a hard nudge from a friend.

I am glad those times are in the past, but I won’t forget them. I will donate to a few of the national charities throughout the year to help with research, but I like to make one or two special donations here and there to a local person or group that truly needs help. For this holiday season, I bought an outfit (shirt, pants, and shoes) for an eight-year-old boy, and I gave money to the Vietnam Veterans, Chapter 470 in MN. The three men who came out for my brother’s funeral meant a great deal to me. They volunteer their time to honor a fellow soldier. I appreciate what they do, and I appreciate that they care. My donation can help pay for some of their expenses.

For giving, I’ve been on both sides of the fence. Sometimes people need a little help here and there to get their feet back on the ground. Keep your eyes open. You’ll know who they are because they won’t take advantage of what you can give. They may not accept your offer, but they will appreciate your kindness. You will make their day, and they won’t forgot it.