Giving street

The Gift Is in the Giving

Today is Giving Tuesday. I’m not exactly sure who came up with the idea but personally, I feel conflicted. On one hand, it’s great to have a focused day to remind everyone that they should try to give back. On the other hand, I wish every day was a day of giving, that it was built into the fabric of who we are. But many of us are busy and we forget. Or maybe we don’t think what we can give would make a difference.

Well, think again.

Not long ago, I had the pleasure of participating on a panel regarding philanthropy. Those of us at the table talked about how our respective organizations helped our communities. One question asked was whether or not our giving strategy would change in the upcoming year and I commented, half kidding, that I wish I had blank checks to give out any amount to those nonprofits that needed support on behalf of our Foundation. I shared that it’s such a rush to be able to step in with a big check.

That’s when a hand rose from the crowd. The woman introduced herself as Mary and she told us all the name of the organization she represented. It was a nonprofit that provided music therapy to hospice patients. Suddenly, I recognized her since she and I had corresponded multiple times; she had difficulty applying for a grant from us but eventually we were able to get her set up in the system.

“I’m not sure if you remember me,” Mary started. I nodded that I did without interrupting her. “But your Foundation gave us $500. You might not think that’s a lot of money, but for us, it meant the world. With that $500, we were able to launch our music therapy program. It was so successful, we were able to then replicate in three additional communities and then show success, resulting in additional funding from other sources.”

“See,” Mary pointed out, “Every dollar helps. It just depends what you do with it.”

I was speechless (probably not ideal for a panelist). I nodded in agreement and then admitted that she was absolutely right. I’m always proud of the good our Foundation does and of the other programs National Life has to help us all give back, but at this moment I was especially proud. It’s truly a gift to be able to give.

We all have gifts to give. It might be $5 or $500. It might be five hours of your time volunteering or five minutes listening to someone who needs a friend. And if we need a specific day to remind us of how we can make a difference in the lives of others, then maybe it’s not such a bad idea after all.