The season of giving has just gotten started.
With Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday over, we as Americans may be out of the shopping spirit. Even though we might not be hitting the malls or online outlets so hard from here on out, I’d like to encourage us to embrace the spirit of giving, as you might have done on this year’s Giving Tuesday. This is a great concept that’s been a long time coming, but let’s not stop there; let’s take time to think about our giving.
Now, there are dozens of charities to give to all year round, and many more that surface during the holiday season specifically. It’s easy to become skeptical of these organizations, asking us to hand over available cash to the cause at hand; there are new rumors surfacing annually about the more visible organizations. Giving to charity is like paying your taxes: you know it’s something you’re supposed to do, but what does that money go toward?
I give annually to a couple of charities; in particular, I like to give to the Salvation Army Red Kettles, Toys For Tots, and the Angel Tree project. This may or may not have something to do with their aggressive presence in most local shopping districts, and my aggressive presence in said shopping districts.
This giving is driven personally by two impulses: to help children have the kind of Christmas I remember, complete with a pretty dress and a new toy, and to put my consumerism to work by giving to those red-aproned volunteers when I see them. Up until now, I had never thought very deeply about these charitable organizations, beyond their reputation for getting the task at hand completed. Many will of course have their own underlying goals and missions. Somehow, it never occurred to me that buying frilly dresses for girls 0-12 years of age might help spread the gospel of Jesus Christ. Same thing goes for the bell-ringers. Or, does receiving a toy from a Marine make a child more likely to look into the armed services later in life?
The way I thought about it was this: do the ends justify the means? In other words, are the benefits of this giving worth the potential impact (negative or positive, depending on your perspective) from the charitable organization’s overall mission? It’s a personal decision that I believe many of us face each time we are asked to make a contribution. In general, we want to give to something we agree with whole-heartedly. So what happens if you agree with the idea, but don’t agree with the motives or the mission? My solution to this particular issue was this: keep it simple, stupid. The little kids who get these clothes and toys on Christmas day are much less concerned with the source of these gifts and the long term plan these groups have in place, than they are with the gifts themselves. If you too find yourself with this same conundrum as we move beyond Giving Tuesday, consider making your donation the gift of quiet conciliation.
Image source: Dreamstime.com/Roman Milert