The season of giving is behind us, but with January and all its resolutions inspiring a sense of fresh starts, the season of giving back has just begun. While it’s nice to demand and seek more within our own lives, one can truly never be fulfilled without living a life of humbled gratitude. If you’re like me, this holiday season I was more blessed than I deserved- and my family didn’t even exchange gifts. If you enjoyed a warm meal with a stable roof over your head, that alone is putting you in a far better position than millions of people around the globe. And if you had the privilege of spending it with loved ones who drive you crazy while exchanging presents, you’re fortunate beyond measure. In this era of “all about me” delusion, the most impactful commitment you can make in 2022 is putting in effort to help those less fortunate.
If the thought of doling out meals in a soup kitchen or building houses with Habitat for Humanity seems overwhelming to your lifestyle at the moment, remember that charity starts at home. Begin by cleaning out your probably overrun closets and pantries. Outdated or ill-fitting clothes that are taking up residence in much-needed storage spaces could be a miracle gift for a person living on the streets or trying to build back after a natural disaster. If you stocked up on paper products and canned goods for the Great Toilet Paper Apocalypse of 2020, perhaps you should unload some of that stuff to people who could actually use it. Makeup bags filled with body care, feminine products and oral hygiene tools are worth their weight in gold to a woman who doesn’t have access to daily hot showers. Consider all the luxuries of home most of us take for granted and unload any usable hoarded items to not only benefit someone else but also detox space for growth within your own environment.
If you want to be more hands on, volunteerism is always the best option for paying it forward. Everyone, no matter their income, age, race or gender, has the capacity to make a difference in this world; you don’t have to be Jeff Bezos to be a hero for another living being. In fact, the most important charitable asset you have to play with doesn’t cost a dime- your time. Volunteering your hands even just a few hours can be invaluable to non-profits who are operating on shoestring budgets while being overrun with need. If handing out blankets to veterans or scooping poo at the animal shelter isn’t as glamorous as you’d like, there are plenty of organizations who conduct annual galas that fundraise for charity. If you have a background in marketing, event planning, sales or even finance, hopping on board the planning committees for such events are an excellent way to put your unique skillset to use, while also networking and building your own social connections. It’s also a terrific way to attend expensive ticketed events full of booze, food and fun for free! Wins all around!
When it comes to financial charitable endeavors, most of us are limited on what we can contribute. I personally struggle with money, especially over the last 2 years of economic chaos, so if someone asks me to give fiscally my knee-jerk reaction is to say no. But let’s be real here…we all have money we’re wasting. Whether it’s a twice weekly $5 coffee at Starbucks, a $20 three wick candle at TJ Maxx or another $500 pair of designer shoes, 99% of us reading this have the means to cut out one impulse purchase and contribute that money to a worthy charity, regardless of our tax bracket. Skipping one meal out and eating at home could be a week’s worth of meals for an underprivileged child. It could sponsor an animal on death row at a shelter. It could mean a tank of gas for a single mother trying to work and get her children to school in a rural area. Whether it’s $1 or $1 million, money can definitely go a long way and add up no matter the amount. Find something reputable that speaks to your heart and give what you reasonably can.
Speaking of finding an organization that speaks to YOU, it is very important to align yourself with a cause you can be passionate about. There are charities for practically everything, and while none of us are ok with poverty, hunger and homelessness, your best efforts will be made to something near and dear to home. If you’re an animal lover, choose a rescue or shelter and go all in. If you grew up in a single mother household, seek out a women’s charity. Love children? Become a mentor! Someone close to you passed from cancer, brain injury, heart disease, or diabetes?? There are associations for ALL those illnesses that offer support for patients who are suffering. Go read to elderly people at a nursing home. Throw a charity ball that supports children in the arts. Volunteer on an LGBTQ suicide hotline. Regardless of your personal beliefs, background, education or means, the beauty of extending a helping hand is that we ALL can – and should – be doing it.
No matter what you choose to call it (karma, The Golden Rule, etc), doing good makes you feel good and returns good back to you. One way or another, the things we do will come back on us down the road. I firmly believe people should help with no expectation of recognition or reciprocation for their good deeds, but it doesn’t hurt that you never know the positive impact your generosity could create on your own life. The hand you shake at a charity function could be your next employer, or the child you mentored in basketball could be the next Kobe and set you up for life…who knows. All I know is you can’t go wrong when it comes to giving back.
For the sake of space I won’t list all available charitable organizations in the Tri; you guys are smart enough to use Google. But having been personally associated with multiple boards and charities over the years, if anyone would like suggestions please don’t hesitate to reach out to me via email or Instagram. I’m more than happy to point you in some directions. Happy first week of 2022 friends!