Every January, I complete a series of journal prompts to help me get clear about my intentions for the new year. And every January, I get a little stuck on one particular prompt: Giving Goals.
I have always had very high aspirations for giving. I immediately think of giving hundreds (or better yet, thousands) to my favorite environmental and social justice non-profits. And in December, an end-of-year bonus, cash in hand, to someone in need.
But like many, I don't quite have that much to go around. That statement is not meant to highlight lack because I am certainly not lacking. I’m extremely privileged and blessed, and find myself surrounded by an abundance of possessions, food, and love, which is more than I could ever hope for.
Cash, however, is not always available to me, or to many who live in cities like mine, where rent is 55-65% of one’s monthly income. So many of us are just paying the bills and there can be a lot of guilt that comes up when we start thinking about the 10% tithing rule.
That’s simply not a reality for me at this time (though I know it will be one day).
So when I open my journal and work on these prompts, I find myself frozen on this one…filled with that guilt and a touch of disappointment. And year after year, aside from giving away $5 here and $10 there, with no real plan behind it, I find myself, instead, giving up on the idea of setting that giving goal.
As I faced this dilemma again in January 2017, I decided that I had to let go of my extremely limiting idea of what a giving goal should be. I threw away the confining 10% tithe and decided it was time to think outside the box.
Giving Is More Than Dollars and Cents
I already make an effort to give of my time and love, especially to my family. And that’s something that nourishes my soul, and, I hope, theirs, as well. What if my giving goal could include the letters and gifts I leave in the little mailbox outside my nieces’ and nephews’ front door? Or a goal to spend some quality time with each of them, one-on-one? It’s not a tithing of money to a cause, but is, nonetheless, an opportunity to expand my generosity.
Taking time to engage in national and community issues is another giving goal that’s emerging for me. As an introvert, I tend to lean inward, rather than outward - yet it’s important to put time and effort into building and maintaining a strong community (both locally and as a country).
For me, that goal looks like not just writing my representatives more often, but engaging on the phone (a challenge for me). It means attending volunteer events within my community. And it means calling my neighbors, shoveling the snow in their driveway, and engaging with them and other people within my immediate vicinity.
Let Giving Challenge Your Fear of Lack
As I started building this list of giving goals, I discovered more and more giving opportunities organically arise – things that were exceptionally specific opportunities that would allow me to challenge my perceptions of lack.
For example, I have a stash of supplies from my days as a bath and body shop owner worth at least $200. The end of my business was a very challenging, sad time for me and there’s a part of me that wants to hold on to those supplies, out of sentimentality. There’s also a part of me that sees the act of giving those supplies away as a loss – a second loss, which is hard to swallow because the loss of the business, itself, was such a blow.
But it has been three years now since I closed those doors. I have not had the opportunity – or even felt a pull strong enough – to re-open the business. So the supplies remain on the shelf, taking up space (both physical and emotional) and the days tick on by…
It finally occurred to me that I could add those supplies to my list of giving goals. What if I were to find someone who was just starting out, someone like me who is committed to creating high-quality, eco-friendly, organic bath and beauty products? Someone who is struggling to get her business off the ground and who would receive immense benefit from a couple hundred dollars of free supplies.
Suddenly, the act of giving those supplies doesn’t feel so sad, so sentimental. Suddenly, it doesn’t feel like a loss. In this light, it is expansion and abundance – a huge blessing to another person...and maybe even a blessing to myself, to be able to let go of these items in such a loving, positive way.
Giving goal: Bless others by turning your forgotten dreams into someone else's bright future.
What if there were other ways to recycle my pain into another person’s blessing? After having to give up my home when my partner left a couple years ago, I have come to realize that I can gift some of the items I made for that home (table mats, decorative pillows, etc.) to someone else, making their home more beautiful and cozy. Perhaps I can even find a way to use my resources, time, energy, or money to help those that don’t have a home, at all – a critical issue in our area during an unusually harsh winter.
For the first time in years, I am excited about my giving goals. I’m no longer stuck in my self-made prison that defined giving as 10% tithing, or even occasional cash donations. Now I’m looking for those very specific things that are literally waiting for me to notice the giving opportunity…those things that came into my life that need me to use them as a blessing for someone else…those very particular qualities I have that will benefit others.
I feel no more dread, no more guilt, when I hear the phrase “giving goals.” It’s a game now, asking myself what treasures I can unearth to benefit another. This act, miraculously becomes a gift to myself, as well.
What giving goals did you set for yourself this year?