January 18, 2009

The Year of Living Generously

Thank you to those who gave me feedback about the causes and organizations you support and the ways in which you do so. Definitely food for thought.

I wrote those first two sentences three days ago. I've been struggling with where I want this post to go since then. I guess I'm still trying to figure out exactly what I want to do and balancing that with how I share it here.

The basic idea is that I'm making this year one where I give as much as possible, both in the sense of giving money and in giving my time, to good causes that I find. Being practical, it's going to be more about where I target my giving dollars and how frequently I'm going to give those dollars. While I will look for opportunities to volunteer and do more than give money, I know the limitations of my time and personal comfort zone, and it would be foolish to make a commitment I know I won't be able to keep.

My purpose is not "Here's what I did, aren't I great?" It's also not intended to be a laundry list of opportunities for others to give. Striking that balance between encouragement and details of actual actions, along with a modicum of accountability, is something I'm finding to be very challenging. I'm also leery of coming off like a patsy who's going to be handing out money for every sob story that comes my way. That's my cynical side coming out, I know, but it's hard to ignore.

While this was something I was thinking about a lot when the donation drive was going on, it brought into more focus by some posts I read at BlogHer, one of which surprised me by mentioning the donation drive. (How did that happen? I left a comment on the author's first post about charitable giving throughout the year, not just at the holidays. Amazing how that works, huh?) While they contain some interesting ideas, none of them sounded just right so I needed to consider how to make it work for me. Thus was born The Year of Living Generously.

I don't know how to talk about the things that inspire me to act, however, without it coming off like one big overshare of self-congratulatory largess. Telling you, "Hey, I gave $X so far this month," isn't meaningful in my opinion. Telling you, "These are the charitable organizations I think you should support, too," is somewhat condescending (and limiting, if that makes sense). I would like to help inspire others to act where they can, yes, but what I do and how I do it isn't necessarily what any of you would do.

So it looks like this is a work in progress. I've already started finding and acting on giving opportunities, and I've already blown past what I initially thought would be my monthly dollar cap. Another bit of balance I need to work on achieving, I suppose. :-)

There is one aspect of this endeavor that I'd like to initiate, and that's highlighting agencies, events and opportunities for giving that I want to share with you. The one I'm going to lead off with is one you've probably already heard about, since it's pretty high-profile, given that was initiated by this guy called (President-elect) Barack Obama. He has called for tomorrow, the U.S. holiday commemorating the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday, to be a day of service across the country. I think this is an excellent opportunity to do something that you've been thinking about doing, be it large or small. Whether it's getting that spare blanket out of your closet and dropping it off at the nearest HomeGoods store or walking across the street to take the garbage to the curb for a neighbor who has limited mobility, giving your time to a local soup kitchen or giving blood that's so desperately needed, make the effort to get out and do it.