December 12, 2008

My Big Holiday Donation Drive, Now With Added Caffeine!

It's that time of year when thoughts turn to holiday traditions; family, gifts, food and fun being chief among them. For most of us, that is.

I'm fortunate. I'm fortunate and I know it, and every day I'm thankful for it. And times like what people are going through right now, in the U.S. and elsewhere, make me feel both fortunate and impotent on a daily basis.

I give. I give often and freely, both as often and as freely as I can. I don't give to every person or group that asks, but I try to focus on the things I see as important. This is an impossible thing, of course, because our priorities shift and change as time and situations change, and what's important to me isn't necessarily important to someone else.

But there's a healthy degree of cynicism in me that I can't shake because it seems like nearly everyone has their hand out at one time or another for one cause or another, and I'm left wondering how we got to a point where there's such great need for so many things every single day and how many of them are people playing an angle and trying to make a buck. For the clearly legitimate causes, it seems like it's a never-ending well of need that just gets wider and wider.

I've had it hammered in to my head that I have to plan for my own future, so I can't justify simply handing over every spare dollar to every cause I encounter, even if my heart is telling me to do just that. In that mythical, perfect world, I could do just that and I'd know that there would be help for me when I needed it. However, we all know that we don't live in that world and it would be foolish to not look ahead to my own well-being and be judicious about balancing saving and giving.

But when I think about how many people are going hungry in a country that has so, so much, it makes me queasy. I know there are parents out there every day having to decide between feeding their families and paying their bills, and people who really don't know where their next meal is coming from, neither of which is something I've ever had to face. The older I've gotten, the more I appreciate how my mother was able to balance what should have been a comfortable income against life circumstances and make sure that we were never without, and probably even had more than we should have. There are too many people, and that number grows every day now, knowing that they're not going to make that balance happen.

As much as I like the Toys for Tots and Family Giving Tree programs (the latter of which I participate in every year and I think it's very important for the people they serve), it's the idea of people going hungry at a time when so many of us are buying expensive, indulgent things for each other that is getting to me the most this year.

To that end, I'm hoping you will help me determine the amount of money I'll be giving to the Second Harvest Food Bank this year, as a part of my company's holiday giving efforts. Inspired by something AmyInOhio did in October for Blog Action Day 2008, I'm asking for you to comment on this post and ask other people to do the same.

For every comment (one comment per person and verifiable email address) to this post made between now, December 12th at 6:00pm PT, and December 19th at 6:00pm PT, I will donate one dollar to Second Harvest Food Bank. It would be fantastic if you would tell us in your comment the state and/or country where you live.

To sweeten the deal, I will be giving away Starbucks $20 gift cards to some lucky commenters*; one card if there are 100 comments or fewer by the end of the period, two cards if there are more than 100 comments by the end of the period. If you guys blow the lid off of this and there are 200 or more comments by the 19th, I'll give away four cards. And if you get someone else to come here and leave a comment, telling me by name that you sent them, there will be an additional incentive. One commenter who has sent at least one other person come here to comment on this post (and they name you in their comment) will receive a Starbucks Gold Card membership in addition to a $20 gift card.

If anyone who wins a gift card so wishes, they can instead choose to have me add that amount of money to the Second Harvest Food Bank donation total.

So there's a chance here to give a lot of money to a good cause and get some freebies for yourself at the same time. With the advent of Twitter and the like, I know you can reach out to a lot of people, and I hope you will. Thank you in advance for spreading the word and doing some good. If you're curious how far the donation will go, check here. I'll plan to provide updates as we go along giving the progress of the donation total.

*The fine print (sorry): All comments must have a name and verifiable email address to be counted. The Starbucks gift cards can only be sent to commenters in North America. The Starbucks Gold Card can only be sent to a commenter in the U.S. Comments world-wide, however, will count toward the donation total. Anonymous or inappropriate comments will not be counted, either for the donation total or the giveaways, and will not be allowed. Comment are moderated so they may not show up immediately. All winners will be contacted by email, so a valid email address is required and you will have three days to reply with a regular mail address that must be in the area described above. Any international winners will be notified and given the chance to have the card amount added to the donation total in their honor. One person could win both the Gold Card + $20 gift card and one of the other $20 gift cards...which would make you the most popular kid in school. The maximum amount that will be donated by me for this post is $500.