Generosity sometimes means giving ‘til it hurts
Special to Stars and Stripes December 2, 2022
Here you go again. You're running from store to store, buying baking supplies, twinkle lights, a pineapple Squishmallow for your niece, a Nerf Rival Nemesis Gun for your son and an Amazon Echo Show 5 for your husband. You've got to get home to bake 12 dozen pecan tarts for the base neighborhood cookie exchange, when it dawns on you.
You forgot the butter.
For the second time today, you approach the irresistibly cute Salvation Army bell ringer outside the grocery store. You want to tell the sweet little old man freezing his bippy off in the name of the needy, "I gave earlier today," but you know darned well he doesn't remember and will think you're a cheapskate. So you sort through the gum wrappers and paper clips to see if you can find a few more quarters in your purse.
But you realize that you put all your coins in the kettle during your last trip to the store, so you look for a single or two, only to find that you've only got a five spot. With trembling hands you fork over the five dollar bill you were hoping to use for a Vente Skinny Peppermint Mocha Latte with extra sprinkles on the way home.
You intentionally hesitate with your hand over the red kettle, wanting the bell ringer and everyone else to see the denomination of your bill and think, "Wow, she gave five whole dollars."
"Thank you for your kindness," the old man says, and you walk into the grocery store feeling good about your decision to feed the poor rather than slurp another overpriced specialty coffee.
In fact, you feel so charitable that you decide to buy a few canned goods, in addition to your stick of butter, to put in the food bank collection at the front of the store. And while you're at it, you grab a whiffle ball set to put in the Toys for Tots box too.
With a sanctimonious flip of your wrist, you zip your debit card through the reader just as the cashier asks, "Would you like to give a dollar to the Orphaned Kittens' Sweater Knitting Guild?" Seven other impatient customers are in line behind you. The baggers are waiting for your answer. The cashier is staring blankly into your eyes.
You think, “Another dollar? Seriously? Don't you remember that I just gave a dollar for the stinking kittens when I was in here an hour ago, for criminy's sake? This is entrapment! Let someone else dress the orphaned kittens! I just want to buy this damned stick of butter and go home!”
As you search your brain for a valid excuse to say "No thanks," you wonder, “Why do I bother searching for bargain gifts when you end up giving so much away?”
Charitable organizations raise the bulk of their income between Thanksgiving and New Year's Eve, when people are feeling generous. Salvation Army, for example — the largest non-governmental provider of social services — raised $520 million last holiday season to fund its programs for the homeless and the poor, and about $110 million of that came from donations to its iconic red kettles.
Military charities rely on public generosity during giving season, too. The US Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots Program collects toys to give to less fortunate youngsters as a message of hope to encourage them to become responsible, productive, patriotic citizens. Other national military charities that rely on donations to help the military community include The Gary Sinise Foundation, The USO, Fisher House Foundation, Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS), Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), Homes for Our Troops, Semper Fi and American’s Fund, and many, many more.
Is giving season about risking death by trampling to get the best bargain on a Nintendo Switch Hollow Night at Walmart? Is it about looking good when you drop a bill into the red kettle? Or is it about giving unselfishly to provide for those who are in need?
"Absolutely," you tell the cashier, realizing that in order to be truly generous, your gift must be no bargain at all.
Read more at themeatandpotatoesoflife.com and in Lisa’s book, “The Meat and Potatoes of Life: My True Lit Com.” Email: firstname.lastname@example.org