Give generously. While this may sound like a contradiction to my previous column on giving lightly, it is not. Let me explain.
Falling prey to the Madison Avenue depictions of Christmas trees exploding with wrapped gifts from under their boughs will not bring endless happiness to your children. In fact, it is more likely to promote agitation.
Consider instead giving a few choice presents while using this festive season to talk to your kids about the benefits of charitable giving.
Every December solicitations from non-profits fill both email and postal boxes. Give to a charity before the New Year’s Eve ball falls on Times Square and another tax deduction for the year may be gained.
Christians take to heart Matthew 25:34-40 in which God blesses those who give to people in need and visit the sick and imprisoned, for it is the same as giving to the Lord. We who live in warm homes with stocked cupboards and closets full of clothes and shoes are indeed fortunate.
In December 2010, I read an article to my boys from Parade magazine on the Shoestring Philanthropist, Marc Gold. In 1989, Gold toured India and found small donations were often life-changing or even life-saving. One dollar bought antibiotics for a woman who would have died without them. Thirty-five dollars bought her a hearing aid that allowed her to return to work.
Impressed by how such small sums of cash could bring such great good, Gold asked 100 of his friends to donate a little money. They did and his non-profit, 100 Friends (100friends.org), was created. Through 100 Friends, Gold has helped thousands of people in more than 50 developing countries.
Lead by example
Children take most to heart not what we parents tell them, but what we do. And what I show my children, I hope, is that while generosity is highlighted at this season, it should not be restricted to one month of the year.
With a credit card, I make monthly, automatic donations to several non-profits that are important to me. While my kids couldn’t list these organizations, they know there is a list and that WKSU is on it (a dollar a day) because I dole out the members’ swag. My boys proudly wear sweatshirts, scarves and hats bearing our NPR station’s logo.
Last December at age 16, Jules gave to the Coral Reef Foundation and the Rainforest Trust. He also bought his first Federal Duck Stamp. Issued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Federal Duck Stamp is one of the oldest conservation efforts in the nation, having raised over $950 million since it was introduced in 1934.
Giving one-time or monthly gifts are great ways to help organizations doing valuable work. But what about the people in your daily life? Those people who, throughout the year, make you look good, live well, and give you added time by doing work so you don’t have to?
Because you are a faithful subscriber to Ohio’s best daily newspaper (right?), you know your paper carrier is up long before sunrise, delivering the Akron Beacon Journal to your door before your alarm clock bleats. This month, give your carrier a card with some cash in it. We give $20.
Rain, snow, sleet and heat waves are nothing for the men and women of the U.S. Postal Service. Not only do they bring your mail six days a week, mail carriers are the eyes and ears of a neighborhood. Your mail carrier may one day stop a crime or save your life. Again, give them a card with some cash.
If you are so lucky as to have someone else clean your house, give a year-end bonus. And for the love of all that is right in the world, if you leave town for the holidays and won’t need your home cleaned, still pay the person! Your cleaning person’s bills do not go away when you do.
You put your head in the hands of your hairdresser several times a year. It’s nothing short of foolish not to tip them well. Tip generously all year and you’ll hardly notice the difference, but your stylist will. The same goes for nail technicians. And at the end of the year, tip extra.
I wish everyone had to work as a server the summer before graduating high school. Thereafter, when dining out all people would always tip well and behave graciously. Ohio’s minimum wage for tipped employees is currently $4.05 an hour. Nobody can earn a living wage on $4.05 an hour.
Tip well because it’s the right thing to do.
How much? Twenty percent is an easy sum to mentally calculate and in most cases — whether tipping a server, hairdresser or nail tech — the difference between 15 and 20 percent is little more than a cup of Starbucks coffee.
Giving benefits givers
Giving generously benefits not only the recipient but also the giver. Repeatedly, studies have shown people with fewer resources give more generously, and more often to strangers, than the wealthy. The less you make, the more you understand the struggles of others.
And yet the wealthiest person can benefit from philanthropic giving, even when initiated for less than charitable reasons.
Few may remember that in the 1990s, Bill Gates was almost universally despised. In 2000, a U.S. federal judge determined Microsoft had engaged in anti-competitive practices resulting in a monopoly that should be split apart. I was pregnant with Jules and remember everywhere I’d go people were having schadenfreude-filled discussions about the decision.
Today Jules is 17 and most people think Bill Gates is a pretty nice guy. What happened? That same year the U.S. justice department was going after Microsoft tooth and claw, Gates and his wife Melinda launched the Gates Foundation. Coincidence? I don’t think so.
Like many at the time, I believe the Gates Foundation was created to improve public opinion of Bill Gates and his mega corporation, Microsoft. But I also believe, as is often the case with philanthropists, that the work of the Gates Foundation has changed its funder for the better.
Fighting hunger, disease and overpopulation, while also working to improve education, in over 100 countries has made Mr. Gates a passionate advocate of those who are the least among us.
So please, give generously for everyone’s sake, including your own.
This column first appeared in print in the Akron Beacon Journal on December 17, 2017