Friday, December 9, 2011

Season of Giving

Does it freak you out a little how many needs are clamoring to be met this time of year?  You know - when you are already stretched to the max trying to figure out how to take care of your own holiday needs?

It gets me every year....  the needs are there all year.... but it seems like everywhere I turn this time of year.. on the street, on the internet, in my mailbox... the needs of the world are overwhelming.  I realize that this is a great time of year to make needs known.  In general, people are in a more generous frame of mind, more ready to donate... and I applaud that.   But I have an issue with compulsive, careless giving. 

Don't get me wrong, I love giving.  Giving things away... gifts, money, things I don’t need any more...  brings me a lot of pleasure.  My family even tithes... and how that came about is a whole different story for another time.

I also feel strongly that FEAR makes us hold on to things... be less generous.  And I have a personal habit.... when I feel that FEAR of NOT having enough.... rise up in my throat.... my habit is to give a little bit more.  Because GIVING makes me feel more secure... that I have MORE than enough (of whatever).

Most of us have had times in our life where we did not have enough (or we did not FEEL that we had enough...... or we WORRIED that we WOULD not have enough).  We all know that empty worried feeling.  Giving back reminds us that we are all in the same boat.  And being able to contribute makes us feel better about ourselves and our lives.

Giving should be a sacrifice.   I do believe this..... mostly because – selfishly perhaps... if I give MORE than I think I CAN... then I feel richer.  I am more satisfied with what I have.  I do NOT feel in NEED.

BUT... and this is a BIG BUT..... giving should NOT be a burden.  Giving should be about making your life a little difficult... giving up that Starbucks drink this week.... or maybe that new coat you WANTED but don’t really NEED.  GIVING should NOT be about giving up the coat you really NEED.  GIVING should not be about increasing your debt load.  GIVING should be difficult, but not burdensome.

Giving should be a thoughtful choice.... not a careless whim.  For your own purposeful existence, this is an area to take charge.

All that aside.... the societal demand TO GIVE is never louder or more strident than in this season.  On every corner is someone demanding that you give...  whether it is money or food or return gifts to people you don’t know.  If you are not careful, one of two things will happen... you will give MORE than you SHOULD (considering your own personal circumstances) or you will allow yourself to be eaten alive with guilt.

Neither of these two things is good – for anybody.  And people are hungry all year long. 

Why not take control of your money... and DECIDE how much you can reasonably give each month?  If you like giving it all in this season... then save it up and do that NEXT year.  Save all your change for the year... count it up.... and drop it in all the buckets and baskets as you go along.  Counting it is important.  You need to know how you spend your money.

Instead of giving randomly to everyone who asks, why not research and CHOOSE places to donate?  Talk about it with your family and make it a family project.  Let everyone have a voice – and let them choose their month to donate.

You might be surprised (and please) with how much you are able to give back.  We have been blessed with so much.  If your basic necessities are met, then you can give something.

THIS year, if you are just beginning to take charge, MIGHT be learning to say NO.  It might be learning how to smile at the bellringer and wish them a great day - but NOT dropping anything in the bucket OR feeling guilty about it.  Remember, you can always send a check to their organization in February.

Or it might be CHOOSING an amount, getting a roll of quarters, and dropping one in each bucket you pass.   

Prepare for food drives all year by buying discount or "buy one, get one" of items with a long shelf life - canned or dry goods.   (I buy things we don't eat - like canned meats and tuna so I know what they are for.  Protein is a special need at food banks!  Just make sure you watch those expiration dates - don't give away food you wouldn't deem edible.)

Taking charge of yourself (which includes your finances) is part of “righting the universe”.  It is part of making the world a better place.  It is part of “bringing about the kingdom”.  You name it – whatever it may be in your manner of thought.

I urge you to go about giving in a thoughtful way.... as you take control of your life.... your giving needs to be part of the whole picture. 

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