After several false starts winter is finally upon us, and as Thanksgiving gives way to the Christmas season, it’s also time for the annual “Season of Giving,” with all of the pitfalls and pleasures that go with it.
The Christmas season is an obvious time of year to think of those in need. It’s a time of year when we give to those we love, so it’s natural to think of those who either have no one to care for them, or don’t have enough to give to the people they love. But there is a down-side to this time of giving. The biggest is what we’ve heard called “charity burnout.”
There are literally thousands of charities, and most are very worthy and do excellent work. It’s not uncommon to go to a mall or shopping center and find a bell ringer at every door, tables set up inside the mall with other worthy charities requesting donations or selling wrist bands, paper angles or the like, cashiers at many stores inquiring if you would like to donate to another worthy cause. All this comes before ever turning on the television or logging onto the internet, or stopping by your place of worship, to be barraged with even more charity requests.
It’s hard to believe that anyone can make it through the holiday season without suffering charity burnout. One suggestion is to decide now, before the charity season hits full swing, how much you want to and can afford to give to charity, and decide which charities you wish to fund. Pick the one, three, or even five, charities that mean the most to you, and whose mission you most appreciate, and those will be the ones you donate to. Set that amount aside in your purse or wallet, and when you come by a worthy charity on your list, if you have money left in your budget, donate. You will be able to keep tabs on how much you are donating, and will feel at least some semblance of control over the process.
If you feel like you are giving as much as you can afford to, you will likely not feel compelled to give to everyone. Another thing to keep in mind in this season is that not all giving needs to be monetary. If you have time on a weekend or in the evening, volunteer to ring the bell, cover a shift at the local food shelf or find some other way to volunteer. Look around your neighborhood; do you have elderly neighbors who need their walkway shoveled? This will cost you nothing, but will leave you and your neighbor both with the warm glow of the season in your hearts.
This is an especially good thing to teach your children. Then your spirit of charity might end up expanding to the next generation. If you don’t have the time, but do plan to give monetarily, look for those charities that will help your North Country neighbors. Try to keep your money local. While there is nothing wrong with helping someone on the other side of the world, you will likely have a more immediate feeling of giving if you knit a pair of mittens or give a new coat or toy to a North Country child.
That charity might someday get paid forward, and this region of the world will keep on being the special place to live that it has always been.
There is also nothing wrong with asking a charity how much of your contribution will stay local, or even what percentage of your contribution will go to administration as opposed to going to the needy. With something like a coat or a toy, you know that 100 percent goes to those in need.
The final thing to keep in mind, is that many, if not most, charities have needs year-round. It’s amazingly generous to serve meals to the needy on Christmas, but people are just as hungry in June. Give some thought to pacing your giving, or volunteering, to charity all year round. Then you might feel a little bit better about tempering things between Thanksgiving and Christmas, and you might be able to avoid charity burnout.