When I was little, my parents thought it was important to teach my sister and me responsible habits. I was heartbroken after my first babysitting job when they told me that I could only spend 70% of what I had earned. The remaining 30% was to be divided: 20% for savings and 10% tithe.
My parents had a non-traditional definition of the word ‘tithe’. We didn’t have to give it to the church but we had to donate it in some way. Every Christmas my sister and I would look at what we’d saved over the past year and decide what we wanted to do with it. Sometimes we’d buy toys for children other times we’d stock up on food for the food bank. Occasionally, we’d take a little extra out of our spending money so that we could round up to an even number. My mom would always match whatever we spent.
When I decided to volunteer full time with the Peace Corps in Madagascar, it was the first time I saw extreme and widespread poverty first hand. And later when I moved to L.A. to volunteer with AmeriCorps, it was the first time in my adult life that I lived under the poverty line.
When I first moved to L.A. I ate food donated by non-profits and churches. I was grateful that there were also non-profits that would provide me with my medications at no cost. Once I was settled in, I applied for and received food stamps. While for me, being poor was a choice because of the program that I’d decided to volunteer for, I was very aware that for the people that surrounded me at these offices applying for services, being poor was not a choice.
Fast forward a few years and I have a ‘real’ job. Because of my past experiences and the volunteer work I’ve done, it’s become even more important to me to give back. Until recently, I continued to volunteer both my time and my money. But over the past few months I haven’t done as much. I’ve been busy working 2 full time jobs, although living off the salary of 1 as my writing doesn’t pay anything yet. I’m starting to understand how much of an investment it is to start your own business.
As it gets closer to Christmas I’ve reflected a lot on how much I haven’t done this season. And I have to admit, I feel guilty. So I’ve decided to do something a little different. This year on my Christmas list, instead of just having a couple items for myself I included one additional item:
Please make a donation in my name to the IRC to help refugees in Europe and the Middle East.
I may not be able to afford to give this year, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t help. I sincerely hope that at least one person will opt to do this for me this year, as it would mean more to me than any material present one can give.
I highly encourage others to think of this option for the holidays. It’s easy to ask for 1 less thing for yourself. You can choose whatever charity, cause or non-profit that you’d like. I chose the IRC because it’s an organization I’ve volunteered with and am passionate about.
Here are some other ideas you could add to your list this Christmas:
- Make a monetary donation in your name
- Give a gift to a child in need on your behalf
- Donate time to a cause you support
- Participate in a community service project
If you think this is a great idea to give back this holiday season, please help spread the word. If everyone shared this once, just imagine how much good we could do this season.
Update 1/13/16: I didn’t receive this gift for Christmas, but today when I opened my birthday card from my sister, she’d made a donation in my name. Thanks Katie!