Give Smart

There are so many ways to give and to receive.  So many wonderful ways.  So many destructive ways as well.

It’s a blessing to have people and things to give to.  It’s a blessing to know of organizations to give to.  Two I recommend at this moment are Enterprise for Equity and The Olympia Free Clinic.  These are options where truly wonderful people work to provide wonderful, helpful service through kindness and equality.   Kiva is a fun organization too.  If you want to keep a person off the streets, please consider giving to the Community Action Council.

And, if you literally want to save a life, choose Friends New Underground Railroad.  Or, ask Paul Southwick from One George Fox as to how you can make a life a better place for a Christian of the LGBTQ community.  As you know, their life can be hell.

If you want to benefit someone with services from someone who is in life transition, about to go into transition, or wants to figure life out, maybe you can donate on behalf of someone for services such as those Teron offers.  If you want to open up someone’s view of life, consider paying for a ticket to another city, country, or another side of the world.  Or perhaps open horizons through the lens of Humans of New York.

Another idea is to give gifts that keep on giving, through shopping online via AmazonSmile.  Or, give by literally clicking on a link posted on the website of Greater Good (each tab has its own link and opportunity to click to give – hunger site, veterans, animals, and more).  It’s also a whole ton of fun to click on the link, shop, and receive the gifts from these sites as well.

Others are blogging about the concept.  Two blogs I highly recommend visiting are “Socks are Not Enough: Social Justice Lies Upstream from Charity” and Elaine’s reflection on this blog “Socks are Not Enough.”

But, more than that, I highly recommend giving to your neighbor, your relative, your friend who truly need it.  Even professors are on food stamps.  Give smart, so give to charities who enable tax write-offs.  But also give smart in that give in a way that really serves the person you are giving the gift to.

Make the gift meaningful.  Learn about what the person truly wants deep down inside.  Is it a handwritten card?  Choose a beautiful card and take the time to write a meaningful, intentional letter.  Is it a roof over a person’s head?  Maybe you can’t personally afford to do that, but maybe you can help that person find what they need by offering your time, ear, and telephone – maybe even home address.  Does a person want a pen?  Clothing?  A toy?  Maybe just cash?

There are two gifts I gave that were flops:  a fountain pen and a wheel chair.

I gave a fountain pen for a birthday or Christmas present years ago.  It was not the type of pen he uses.  He appreciated the gift, the unexpected gesture of kindness, but it wasn’t usable for him.  He couldn’t use it in a meaningful way and thus it was less desirable for him.  It would have been much more meaningful should I have given him the pen he really, truly was hoping for.  He could use the one I gave, but it wasn’t as effective nor as wonderful should I have taken the time, asked the right questions, and listened to what he truly wanted.  He was incredibly kind, thankful, and grateful, but he could’ve been more thankful and grateful had I given the right type of gift.  Thus, my gift was essentially a poor use of resources, money, time and effort, a disappointment for him, yet a lesson learned for both of us.  It’s better if gifts are not solely lessons learned.

I was working at a job where I was all excited about the ability to purchase a wheelchair for patient.  I made the mistake of assuming what he wanted, the style that would be the best for him, etc.  I was super excited about the idea of being able to choose and give a gift.  Especially one of that nature.  However, all my effort and desire to help ended up into my making a huge mistake and ended up becoming a huge flop.  The wheelchair only got in the way of his daily activities, took most of the space in his bedroom (which was extremely tiny to start with), was completely impractical, and created incredible safety hazards.

The whole point of my sharing this story is that he could have had so much better had I asked more questions.  I ruined his ability to have the chair he needed in the way he needed because of my impractical giving through government resources.  He kindly used it, but he couldn’t use it in the way he truly needed it.  He was incredibly grateful, but I’m certain he felt incredibly frustrated as well.  It was essentially the same thing as giving a bag of candy to a diabetic.  The wheelchair was beautiful, made the mouth water, but was completely non useful with the literal potential of killing the person.

Last Thanksgiving and Christmas were a blast for me.  I used the excuse of a holiday and having no family to spend it with to splurge on others.

I was sitting in the parking lot of a Chevron gas station/Jack-In-The-Box complex while chatting on the phone with a friend who was working on a military base in Japan.  (Ironically he is an individual who choses to spend the vast majority of money he wins via poker machines to give to coffee baristas, base charities, his sunday school students, and more.)  I was feeling in the dumps because I hate the holidays.  I absolutely hate the holidays as “it rubs me in the face” that I’m solo, single, and due to the unhealthy nature of my biological family I just cannot justify spending time with family on a holiday even if they should ask – which they do not.  There is nothing more important in my mind than the concept of love and family.  So, in my mind, if there’s a problem, let’s fix it.  I’ve tried myriads of methods to fix this personal problem of mine, but my methods haven’t worked for me, and what I tried in the past was definitely not going to work for that year, so I conjured up a new solution.

I decided that I was going to use the holiday as an excuse to give.  Partially selfishly so that I can feel like I can be in the holiday spirit, and partially so that I could give just to give, for the sake of giving.  And, to be completely honest, I also partially gave selfishly to yield a much-needed rush of positive, feel-good brain chemicals.  But, when it really comes down to it, I really, really wanted to give in a way that means something to someone somehow and not just to me.  Giving selfishly can become an unselfish act of sheer generosity.

And so, putting my plan in action, I interrupted my conversation with my friend (a gift in its own way) to give a woman cash.  She was so excited, so very excited.  It was only $40 or so – maybe more I don’t remember.  But, she was so excited.  It was so much fun to see.  I wasn’t paying attention to it at the time, but she was a very young mother of two little boys who appeared to have recently been going through a divorce.

On a different occasion, there was a young man I gave $20 to.  He was an angry young man.  Incredibly angry.  Full of hurt and angst.  But, he needed it and I’m grateful I gave it to him – even though he likely used it to numb pain through drinking or otherwise.  Both were intentional gifts.  Gifts that meant something to them and something to me as well.  Gifts that will help in the long-run as well as in the here-and-now.

This same Thanksgiving/Christmas holiday season, I missed an opportunity to give a gift by paying a woman’s purchase.  She was paying for her Christmas meal at a 7-11-type place.  The kids were excited but the mom felt like a complete failure.  They were eating pizza, pepperoni sticks, horrid awful food.  It was her way of giving but she felt horridly guilty and inadequate.  I still feel the weight that was on the mom’s shoulders.  I wish to God I would’ve swiped for her food like I had considered, but I was focused on the total to see if I could afford it.  Rediculousness.  I ended up paying $75 for tons of people’s gas without the intention to (the gas attendant kept my credit card line open (you had to prepay inside) and I didn’t know it).  $30 (more or less) would’ve been just fine.  A blog I wrote that surrounds this time is here.

Appropriate gift giving takes time, effort, resources, along with communication and listening skills.  Many of us don’t have those luxuries.  Thus, we feel discouraged.  And, when we feel discouraged, we give up altogether, make haphazard approaches to solving the problem, overcompensate, and more.

If you are giving a gift for work, family, or friends, consider the source.  Use communication.  Ask yourself is this something that is truly meaningful to them?  Is this a “me” wish or a wish that satisfies a need?

If you don’t have anyone to give to, give to random strangers.  Some ideas are to swipe a card to fill someone’s gas tank.  Swipe your card to pay for someone’s grocery bill.  Pay for someone’s storage unit before they lose their things – it just might be all they own or their storage unit might house memories or meaning that will be forever lost.  Call a local pharmacy and pay someone’s medical bill – or go there in person and swipe your card for them.  Holidays are excellent reasons and excuses to give and do random acts of kindness.  It’s a whole lot of fun for both the giver and the receiver when done right and well.  But these sorts of giving doesn’t have to be done due to the label or intent of celebrating Christmas.

There is a whole ton of red tape involved for services to give to people in need and for people in need to receive services.  I feel that giving to social services or large organizations can often be a copout, but they do serve a purpose.

If you want to give, truly give, be a Good Samaritan yourself – don’t let it just be a Bible story.  Don’t just leave good things, actions, and gifts for the saints to do and give, become Mother Teresa yourself – even she wasn’t perfect and had to start somewhere, somehow.

If you want to truly give, give in ways that mean something to that person.  If you don’t have any money to give, give a hug.  If you don’t have any hugs to give, say something nice in a meaningful way.  If you can’t say something nice, then do something that is nice to them.

Not everyone is greedy.  Not everyone are takers.  Some give too much.  Some give way too much.  Stay balanced in your giving.  You never have to give.  Giving is a choice.  A wonderful choice.  Make it fun, meaningful, enjoyable, in a way that will last.   It’s okay to not give to the person, individuals, groups, or organizations who demand that you give – or guilt-trips you into giving – to them.  It’s also okay to give to people who truly need those services.  Stay smart in your giving.

Different people feel loved differently.  The Five Love Languages is an excellent resource in understanding how a person feels loved (as explained by the blog entry of personalty cafe).

Be intentional in your giving.  Give with goodness and love in your mind and heart.  If you can’t muster up the goodness, don’t give.  If you don’t feel good about that particular idea, method, intent, whatever… don’t give.  If you feel a strong urge to give, then please act on that urge – especially if it’s strong and “keeps popping up.”  There is a God-given reason for it.  However, take a moment of discernment to determine if it’s a gut-reaction or true inspiration.

Whether it’s a gift you are giving, a message you are receiving, or an action you are taking, take a moment and consider questions and ideas Steve writes about in his blog:  consider your motive, consider your audience, and consider your source.

It’s okay to not give in a particular way or form.  It’s okay to choose to not give.  However, it is better to give than to receive.  It’s best to give to those who truly choose to give and pay it forward – be it organizations, family members, friends, or strangers.  It’s okay to feel good about giving or even not-so-good about giving or not giving – just realize it’s a choice to give.  If you use practical, mindful intention in your method of giving, this will yield much better results in the long-run.  But, it’s a process of learning and growing.  It takes time and effort.  But, just like investing money, the best methods yield the greatest results.

Do not judge, but give wisely.  Do not expect anything in return, but give wisely.  “Do not cast your pearls before swine.”  Choose to give in ways that are meaningful.  Find people who truly need what you can give.  And give in ways that they truly need.  “Don’t burn a hole in your pocket.”  Let your resources be reinvested and recycled in some way.  Money and spending money are not the only ways to give.  Sometimes that $5 gift means the same as if you purchased a $5,000 gift.  Sometimes a $5, 000,000 gift has the same value as dirt.  And sometimes verbalizing “give yourself a hug” means more than if you literally gave them a hug or a $500 gift certificate.

There are times to give to an addict, and times to hold off on a particular form of giving.  There are times to give to mean people and there are times to let them go.  There are times to give to demanding situations, individuals, family and organizations, and times to let them figure things out on their own.  Use discernment  – and when you use discernment, let your personal bias fly out the window.

Maybe your husband, wife, son, daughter, sister, brother, friend… would rather a cup of coffee with your smartphone left in your car and a truly open, nonjudgemental, listening ear for an hour, a day, or weekend instead of that brand new Rolls Royce.  Or maybe they want a cup of coffee instead of a pen.  Maybe your friends, family, customers, clients, patients… are begging you to just listen.

Please, give with caring.  Leave selfish, self-centeredness behind.  Just give – truly give.

If you need ideas or  want someone in particular to give to but just don’t know who, feel free to ask me and I’ll be more than willing to help brainstorm or lead you to that person, individual, organization, or more.

With all this in mind, please give.  Think outside the box.  Give smart.  And please, don’t just give on Christmas.

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