Last month, our school participated in a coin competition. While I’m not entirely keen on asking students for money, especially right after all the annual back-to-school fundraisers that also ask kids to sell things to the community for money, I rolled with it. The money was going towards a good cause, and many of my kids were enthusiastic about it. So I promoted it. We counted–and recounted and recounted again–the change and graphed our progress each day. They were pretty pleased. Until it was announced that a student from another class brought in $100. Then, the coins stopped appearing.
At first, I didn’t understand it. Wouldn’t that inspire you to give more? I made more persuasive announcements. I donated money. I had kids make announcements. Still, the box sat mostly empty. About that same time, I read about Mr. Money Mustache and Physician on Fire giving away $100,000. Then, Leigh set up a donor-advised fund. And suddenly, that empty box made too much sense.
It’s no secret that I value charitable giving. I tweet about it. I shared our monthly gifting budget. I even wrote a post in which I was far too polite about the fact that I think everyone could be more generous, especially people who are financially independent.
But as soon as I read about all of the outstanding charitable giving that bloggers were doing, I was tempted to delete all of my posts on giving. How in the world could I remind people to give money convincingly when we only budget a measly $2400 a year? OK, so this is the one budget category that I’m happy to bust from time to time. But with extra donations, I doubt we crack $3000 consistently. At the present rate of speed, I am not going to live long enough to make the kind of impact that those other generous souls made.
I felt like a disgrace.
I felt like a fraud.
Maybe it was better to just stop talking about giving until we had enough money to give. But then what was enough? What if I never made it $100,000? What if $150,000 became the new $100,000 by the time we saved $100,000? Oh, the numbers. Oh, my aching head.
But then I remembered something else. I thought of another box that held change. More precisely, it was a red Pringles can in my Nana’s closet. She stashed all of her found money in that container. It was like a windfall whenever she took it to the bank. She had so little that spare change meant so much to her.
And yet, she always gave. It might be a dollar or two in the basket at Mass or a $10 check made out to her favorite charity, but she always gave. She bought wrapping paper and chocolate-covered nuts and anything else the local scouting troops or schools were selling. I remember watching her seal an envelope at her kitchen table one day. “Do what you can and give what you can,” she told me. All the while, she lived below the poverty line.
There’s no question about it. This holiday season, I won’t be writing out any six-figure checks. I won’t be setting up a donor-advised fund with Vanguard. I won’t be giving like the big-league gifters.
But I can continue to give like my nana. I’m going to do what I can and give what I can. And maybe that’s the most important lesson in charitable giving of all.
So Tell Me…How are you handling holiday giving? Any suggestions for me to step up my giving game?
Note: My amazing coworkers and I are working on a challenge with our students. Starting on December 1st, we’re all going to fill out blank calendars, endeavoring to do something kind or charitable each day. I’ll share my results at the end of December similarly to what I did before my 30th birthday. Join us?