how to give more

March 2, 2009

In these tight economic times, giving can be extremely hard to do.  You need every penny you bring in.  How can you afford to give anything, since it will require you to give up something?

While this dilemma is one that more and more people are facing lately, it should be noted that, if you’re not facing this dilemma, you’re not really giving.  Whoa!  What do I mean by that?  If you’re a giver, but you give out of your excess, giving doesn’t really affect you or impact you in any meaningful way.  If you have money to pay all your bills, have some fun, invest for retirement, and invest for your children’s education, and you still have enough left to give some away, how much does that gift mean to you?  It doesn’t represent a sacrifice of anything on your part.  You haven’t really given anything of yourself.

On the other hand, if money is tight at your house, but you choose to give some anyway, you are giving up something else you may have wanted.  Maybe you can’t eat out as much, or maybe it takes longer to save for your down payment, or maybe you have to wait until next month to get the car fixed.  If you give in the midst of these circumstances, your gift represents an actual sacrifice.  You have to give up something real and immediate in order to give.  If you keep this up for any length of time, you’ll also have to wrestle with personal, philosophical, and theological issues, and wrestling with these things will make you more human, more genuine.

Have you ever been presented with a real need, perhaps someone seriously hurting, but you don’t have any way to give?  You want to be ready to give at a moment’s notice, not be stranded with nothing available.  The trick is to decide beforehand how much you are going to give.  Every payday, set that amount aside in an envelope under the mattress.  Then, when you hear of someone with a need, you won’t have to struggle with how you’re going to come up with a gift.  Just go to the envelope and grab some cash.

You can also put $20 in a back corner of your wallet that you never go to, just so it’s there when you need it.

Use whatever tricks will make you more generous.  But don’t miss the opportunity to give.

This article originally appeared in the February 25, 2009, edition of the Greenhorn Valley View.


December 4, 2008

By now you’ve probably heard about the trampling death of a Walmart worker on the day after Thanksgiving.  You may also have heard about the shooting at a Toys-R-Us, and the man who punched a woman in the nose to get the last of the TVs on sale.  It’s enough to make you want to check out.

I want to check out of the consumerist society.  I want nothing to do with a culture that says the $2 pair of pajamas is more important than the guy I’m walking over to get them.  I hate the fact that stores have to have high volumes of cash coming in so that they can have a “good” holiday season.  And we, the consumers, have to do our part.  It is our duty to spend, spend, spend to help the stores get into the “black”.  And if the stores don’t have a good holiday season, they might have to close up shop.

Don’t sit back and say, “Well, I would never act like that…”  We don’t get a pass because we live in the Greenhorn Valley, where there are no large stores.  Human nature is the same everywhere and I have no doubt that in the right time and in the right place, all of us have the potential for the same kind of behavior.  Plus, Pueblo isn’t that far away.  If we wanted to get involved in a tussle at Walmart, it wouldn’t be that hard.

So how do we tame the greed that causes all this?  I don’t know, maybe go ahead and pay the normal $4 price for the pair of pajamas.  And save up and buy the TV at a normal sale price, rather than the deep discount on the day after Thanksgiving.  You might pay a little more than you would on the day after Thanksgiving, but you still have your sanity, your soul, and you didn’t trample anybody.

Also, you might consider the opposite of greed.  You could actively look for ways to give.  You could give more than you get.  You could play Santa.  You could pay a neighbor’s utility bill.  You could throw a feast and invite the whole block.  Remind yourself that people are much more valuable than stuff.  Instead of looking for the absolute best deal on material goods, you might look for the absolute best deal on generosity.  How could you get the most bang for your buck by giving money away?  There is no run on generosity.  You won’t have to fight anybody in the giving line.

This article originally appeared in the December 3, 2008, edition of the Greenhorn Valley View.