Giving Tuesday

Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Electronic Monday and Giving Tuesday….if you have anything left to give. This string of money-based “holidays” has become as traditional as the turkey on Thursday. And how ironic that Giving Tuesday is last in line. I scan the flood of emails reminding me that today is the day to give, and I will probably participate and click a couple links. But, in the past year since the last Giving Tuesday, I have realized that helping others is a complex undertaking. What, when, where, how, why to give are all questions that deserve some thought.

I am reading a wonderful book, insightful, witty and so educational for those of us embarrassingly ignorant about Africa. “Africa is Not a Country,” by Dido Faloyin, presents the continent in all its richness and variety, debunking myths that plague modern-day African countries ready for respect and acceptance as important players on the world stage. One of the most pernicious myths is that Black Africa is helpless, starving, ignorant, and generally incapable, waiting for White colonizers and their 21st century successors to save them.  

Lagos, Nigeria

Most impactful for me was Faloyin’s critique of charitable fundraising for African causes. With all good intentions, developed countries, European and US in particular, are able to create compelling campaigns to “help Africans” who are starving, being slaughtered or kidnapped, or other crises that the media features. What is almost always missing is the guidance or better yet partnership of actual Africans who know best the answers to those “what, when, where, how, and why” questions above. Our White eagerness to act quickly to feed a dying baby or rescue a kidnapped boy soldier, can easily go awry, contributing to political upheaval, corruption, and perpetuation of the stereotypical desperate African needing the White savior. Not denying there are very real crises that need assistance, the author emphasizes that foreign responses must be designed and directed by those on the ground.

Last month I ranted about the avalanche of political pleas for money and the ridiculous rhetoric of doom and desperation. I wanted to give and would have given more if I had received a nice quiet thank you, instead of an alarm of even greater disaster.  Yes, I wanted “my candidate” to win and I wanted to help, but I wanted to have a say in how my money was spent. The thought that the money I gave would support one of those television ads I abhorred was enough to make me think twice about clicking that link. Like Africans in crisis, I would like to be able to guide the fundraising and spending on my cause.

But there is hope. Here are two anecdotes that will lift your spirits. First from a political candidate who seemed to be able to hold a higher ground this season. Cory Booker sent me – yes, me! – a lovely email on Giving Tuesday, subject line: “You don’t need to make a donation to give something valuable this Tuesday.”  His message was:

“I want to recognize the many ways we can give to the world around us. While donations are important, they are far from the only way to make a positive impact in your community or for our country. To the folks getting involved in their communities, showing up to meetings, making phone calls, knocking on doors, and serving others through faith-based organizations and non-profits — thank you. Your service in the spirit of love and kindness sets an example for how we can create a more just, loving nation. I hope you’re able to take a moment and reflect today on how special that is.”

Cory’s email had a political agenda, of course. I don’t blame him for that, but the message is valuable: Give however you can to make this “a more just, loving nation.”

MacArthur Park

And finally, here is an absolutely pure, agenda-free act of giving, exactly what Cory is talking about. Since the beginning of the pandemic almost three years, a group of friends — young women – have shopped, prepared and served lunch every Sunday in MacArthur Park, Los Angeles, to the area’s homeless people. It started small, but word spread, numbers grew, and the friends kept up with more and more meals, never missing a Sunday. This year they went all out, shopped and cooked and served a complete Thanksgiving dinner for over 300 homeless people. They have gathered a small number of supporters whose contributions cover the cost of the food each week. And although some have encouraged them to create a non-profit, get official and grow their giving, they prefer to keep it simple and continue to do what they love. The have answered the “what, when, where, how, why” and that’s all they need.

I am proud to know Emma, a graduate of Santa Fe Prep, who is one of the founders of this terrific project. Thank you, Emma and friends, for knowing how to give.

12 thoughts on “Giving Tuesday”

  1. Thanks Lucy. I was saying to Pam yesterday that I think “Giving Tuesday” is fundamentally a bad idea. Virtually every cause that can access the internet is sending Giving Tuesday e-mails, making it impossible to pay real attention to any of them. It also conveys the idea that there is one day a year for giving. There are 52 weeks in a year and 26 letters in the alphabet. Maybe it would be more appropriate to invite causes that being with letter A to space out their appeals over the first two week, letter B over the next two weeks etc. Because of Giving Tuesday overload, I probably give less during the last two weeks of November than any comparable two weeks of the year.

    1. As usual, Ken, you’re on top of it. Thanks so much, and I’m going to come up with a giving target for every letter of the alphabet!

  2. Points well taken! I prioritize my giving to those organizations that care for children, such as St. Jude Hospital, Feed the Children and others of similar roles.

  3. Hi Lucy,
    So thoughtful and right on.
    I live part time in Southern Arizona near the Arizona/Mexico border working for Border Community Alliance a non-profit whose mission is to bridge the border and create community through education, collaboration and cultural exchange. We are non-political and non-religious. We are not a charity. We practice Social Investment. When we “give” across the border we “pass through” donations to other Mexican non-profits who know what, when, and where the donations can be best utilized. Some how it just feels right.

  4. Thank you Lucy for giving us your gift of perspective and inquiry.
    Maybe it is time to go back to basics and reread one of your mentors, if my memory works, Robert Coles.”In The Call of Service Robert Coles examines the nature of altruistic action.” That’s from a book review. I cannot find my copy. Might giving & service be a daily action? How to discern right livelihood whether homebound, a major donor in mansion one, a wealthy philanthropist or a cash strapped community activist. Often the least among us are the most generous proportionally.
    The constant hammering in various media asking us to give give give is off putting to me yet i get it as I’ve been both the fundraiser and in philanthropy distributing funds.
    My sense is that knowing the groups as much as possible, having a relationship is a good start when feasible. Of course, giving and service are a blend of altruism and self interest. Helping others helps ourselves. Be well. Appreciate you. Tom

    1. Thanks always, Tom, and yes, Robert Coles was my employer right out of college and an inspiration whose influence is so profound I often don’t recognize it. I just think it’s me. Good to be reminded. I appreciate that. Love to you and yours.

  5. I always find your post so thoughtful as well as timely. Cory Booker’s email was refreshing as it emphasized values.
    In contrast, I growl when environmental organizations send big envelopes stuffed with pages and pages of pleas to donate and paper calendars (desk and pocket-sized)—how does that help the environment?

    1. I have the same reaction, Tyson! I would return it, sender unknown, but that would just take more gas and jet fuel… so I just recycle.

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