As an all-volunteer organization we are constantly asking ourselves why we are committing so much time and effort to this organization without pay. This includes the companies, especially Big Fresh, that have spent tens of thousands in donated time to building our website. So why do we do it? It’s because of what we see happening in people’s lives through GA. Recipient and donor’s stories continue to impact us in such a way that we want to keep going. And we will. The message of generosity is transforming, and it is transforming even to us.
A number of recipients have given us permission to share their thank you messages with you. Visit our Stories page and click on a few thank you messages.
We came across the following NPR interview on a life of giving that we thought worth sharing.
“Give, give, give — what is the point of having experience, knowledge or talent if I don’t give it away? Of having stories if I don’t tell them to others? Of having wealth if I don’t share it? I don’t intend to be cremated with any of it! It is in giving that I connect with others, with the world and with the divine.” – Novelist Isabel Allende (this is from an interview she did with NPR)
When we think of greatness we often think of fame, power, or great wealth and success. However which way we define greatness there is something within many if not all human beings that desires greatness of some kind.
Greatness is typically defined in terms of quantity, for example the number of twitter followers you have could be a measure of greatness to some folks. In reality though greatness is more accurately measured in quality. And when we remove quantity as a factor of greatness we can see its quality more clearly. If we could see it, we’d discover that true greatness is happening unseen around us everyday.
Take giving for example, greatness is not in the quantity given but in the quality of the gift. We can all attain a quality of greatness in giving without having to be Bill Gates. Giving an anonymous gift to your neighbor who lost their job, or secretly helping a friend with a bag of groceries left on their doorstep – there are a million ways that a quality of greatness can be attained through acts of kindness. It’s not that the quantity of greatness is bad. Not at all. it should, however, be rooted and grown from what’s really important – the motivations, the heart, the core, which are the qualities.
January 20th Giving Anonymously hit the $2Million mark for gifts given through our charity. It’s a big milestone for us and yet we hope only the beginning of waves of generosity that we get to be a part of. The best part of helping give away $2Million has been the thank you messages from the 1000’s of recipients. These messages, many expressing heartfelt gratitude through tears, have moved us to tears many a time.
We also want to say thank you for trusting us to help you give away $2Million (and counting). And for those of you who have received gifts through GA, thank you too, for trusting us when we called you on the phone letting you know that a friend of yours wanted to give you an anonymous gift. It was an unusual call to get, and some of you hung up on us, but most of you didn’t. I must add that cold calling trying to give away money is the most stressful part of this job.
Now and then we get a call or email from a donor or recipient thanking us for this giving service and encouraging us to keep going. With all of us at GA working as volunteers, hearing things like that means a lot to us.
Still wondering what to give this Christmas? How about giving the gift of giving? December is our busiest month at GA. Many gifts coming through are to friends and family needing extra funds to buy Christmas presents for their children.
In our town, Bellingham WA, we have a toy store that opens only in December each year. Last week more than 300 families came to this toy store to buy hugely discounted Christmas presents for their children (like new bicycles for $10). All these local families are struggling financially, and this store, filled with donated toys, is made available only to them. Giving parents the ability to pick out gifts for their kids allows them the honor of participating in the joy of giving.
You may not have a toy store like this in your town but maybe you know a family struggling to buy Christmas gifts for their children. Why not give them the gift of giving? It’s not too late to give in this way.
From our team at Giving Anonymously we wish you a very merry Christmas!
The video is just over 20 minutes but worth watching. Dr. Norton talks about research done throughout the world on the relationship between happiness and how money is spent. Let us know what you think of it.
I recently read a book by Brian Zahnd called Unconditional. He writes, “The way of forgiveness does not forget the past, but through truth and reconciliation it finds a way beyond toxic memory. It is the way of restorative justice.”
With the 10th anniversary of 9/11 two days away many will spend this weekend remembering the pain of that horrific tragedy. Often the toxicity of pain prompts us to hate, to seek revenge. Brian’s point throughout the book is that hate and revenge are not restorative but rather inflict more pain on others especially our own selves.
Miroslav Volf , Proffessor of Theology at Yale University writes, “To triumph fully, evil needs two victories, not one. The first victory happens when an evil deed is perpetrated; the second victory, when evil is returned. After the first victory, evil would die if the second victory did not infuse it with new life.”
It’s a radical concept to think that there may be a different and better way than retaliation. One of the famous sayings of Jesus was that we should love our enemies. Love our enemies not only for their sake but for our own. When we responds with love instead of retaliation the level of freedom that we experience is truly powerful, even more powerful than the evil committed.
As we go into this weekend maybe we can together think of a ways to stand against the evil of 9/11 by finding creative ways to respond in love and forgiveness. A local church in our area is doing a joint service with our Muslim community to together remember and mourn but in a way that creates unity and love. What a great opportunity to build bridges with our fellow Muslim Americans. Another idea may be to respond to 9/11 by giving to, reaching out to, someone who has hurt us in the past. We have the ability to re-frame the date of 9/11 in our memories by responding in forgiveness and love.
“If someone were really in serious trouble — think of the people in Japan after the tsunami — we wouldn’t hesitate to reach out and help. Think of this as that same, generous, human response only on a much smaller, less critical scale.”
Peter Bregman offers this analogy in piece published in the May 2011 edition of the Harvard Business Review titled “Too Much to Do? Take On More”. In the article Bregman proposes that the most effective way of fielding gossip, complaining, and other negative responses to stress in the workplace is to find small ways, tangible or intangible, to assist or encourage colleagues and coworkers. He asserts that listening, validation, and giving specific suggestions or offers of help can go a long way toward helping a colleague or team regain focus and get back on a productive track.
While I find Bregman’s specific argument a little shaky, I love the encouragement to take an active, counter-intuitive posture towards stress and negativity–cancers that affect workplace productivity, job satisfaction, and healthy teams. Wisdom suggests that a proactive response to a negative circumstance is consistently the most direct route to a solution. And to have a little less moaning about crummy weather, unrealistic project time-lines, clueless clients, or unmotivated students but instead to be generous with encouragement for tasks well done, to validate frustrations and participate in problem solving. I want to give freely in my workplace. I want to be that co-worker.
Spending life seeking our personal fulfillment can often lead to disappointment and disillusionment in life. Maybe a part of midlife crisis is a realization of how having chased our own desires in life we now feel empty midway through. What if much of our frustration and disillusionment with life comes back to seeing ourselves as the end goal?
Life already is a gift, but it is not only for us; it is also a gift to give to others.
I believe that if we take our focus off of ourselves and live for love of God and others we will find overflowing fulfillment and joy even amid the pain of life.