Dear Lucy: It's Christmas time and everybody is trying at the last minute to get donations for all kinds of things. It starts at Thanksgiving when we get sent on a guilt trip to help feed people. Is it me or is this the only time that people are expected to give? It all seems so fake.
– no more to give
Dear No More To Give: Recently, out of curiosity, I looked up the origin of "Black Friday." Among other things I learned that it has something to do with that particular Friday being the last big chance for retail businesses to turn a profit for the year. And then there is the tax incentive to get some giving done to go on your year-end tax return. And finally there is guilt or the idea that we should have some feelings around giving to the less fortunate.
I mention all of these because giving is not an easy or automatic thing for many people. In a society where "me" is number one, it takes more and more to squeeze out kindness.
Now there are lots of agencies, charities, clubs and church organizations that exist for the sake of giving year round. They too are forced onto the bandwagon of using guilt to increase their donations this time of year. I am certain they also wish that giving came spontaneously year round. We come together and give in the face of tragedy and as soon as it's over we allow ourselves to go back to business as usual.
All of this is the nature of human survival. For the most part we all get caught up in survival; mortgages to pay, food to put on the table, clothes to go on our backs. This is basic whether you are Rockefeller or living in the local shelter. And like it or not, we all start there at survival with our giving. Nowadays, we stretch survival items into the realm of extravagance and we call that giving ourselves what we deserve.
I, too, have been thinking about this whole idea of giving during this season and here is what I think we are ready for. The new year will be here soon. How about we just keep it simple in 2014? "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." Let's just practice simple kindness.
Stick to your own knitting. In other words, do your part. Stop comparing and complaining about what others do or don't give.
Start by giving free stuff: a smile, a compliment, a thank you, a hand, hold a door open, run from gossip, rejoice with someone, cry with someone.
Try a little humility: instead of being afraid of germs, offer tissue to the one without the hankie, carry around small bottles of sanitizer to give away, wash your own hands, carry cough drops to offer to the coughing ones.
Clean out your closet or pantry every three months and take the food to the Food Bank or the clothing to the Goodwill. I learned recently that the Mid-South Food Bank can give $6 in food for every $1 you give them.
Develop an honor code and keep it. For example, "I will keep a secret when asked to or refuse to hear the secret if I can't keep it." Or, "I will never begin or end a sentence with "I shouldn't say this" or "Don't tell anybody that I told you this."
Try making a promise to yourself and keeping it so you can learn to keep the ones you make to others.
Find a routine invisible act of kindness to perform: for months, someone in my neighborhood was returning my garbage can from the curb for me. I still don't know who it was!
This is just a teeny, tiny list of possibilities. Don't wait, make your own list and start today. Sure, there is a need for money to help lots of people and causes. But what we all need right now is a return to simple acts of kindness. Not because we feel guilty or because it is the season or because someone asked or because we expect something in return. The truth is that we always get something in return. That is "Spiritual Law." Most of all, it helps us to think about something besides ourselves on a regular basis.
(For help with the feelings that get in the way of prayer and peace of mind, get Lucy's new book, "BE NOT ANXIOUS." Order it directly from her at 901-907-0260 or go to her web site www.heartworks4u.com.)