The Success of Giving

We’re at the tail end of the official start to the holiday season, we’ve done Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday.  Today has been Giving Tuesday.  I’ve gotten over 300 emails requesting donations today, and I’m sure you’ve had quite a few as well.  I donate every month to a number of organizations, so it’s not the reminder to donate for me that it is for so many.  I think Giving Tuesday is a great way to finish off this official start to the holiday season, and get us back into thinking about what it’s really all about, and that’s giving to others.

In business and the study of the economy we talk about numbers a lot, and each year the spending on Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday has increased, which makes many business owners happy.  But we don’t really talk about the numbers as far as what’s given each year to non-profits, so here’s one for you: already over $45 million has been raised on this Giving Tuesday.  That’s $45 million more veterans, children, and women being helped.  More people with disabilities given the support they need.  More faith-based organizations spreading their message around the world.  I would say that’s a successful day of giving.

As I was thinking about Giving Tuesday and the whole concept of giving in the holiday season, I was reminded that we really give all year long.  We choose how much we give of ourselves to our careers, our families, our communities, our planet and even ourselves every day.  Some days we give more than others because the numbers line up.  Sometimes we’re more passionate about something or someone so we give them more of ourselves.  And of course on other days and to other people and projects we give very little because we don’t approve or just don’t have anything left to give.

Ultimately, if we don’t give there won’t be success.  Our jobs won’t get done, our partners won’t be loved, the earth will fall apart, our children won’t be taught, our bodies will suffer, our communities will decline and there won’t be much hope for the next generation.  So I would encourage you to check in with yourself today and this week and see what kind of giving you’re doing on a regular basis.  Are you giving to the people and things that matter most to you, things that you would be sad to see gone if they weren’t successful?  How can you be a better giver today?

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Raising Kids to Do The Right Thing

This week there was an incredible story in the news about a girl who wrote a note to someone whose car was damaged by a bus that fled the scene. It was incredible because accidents happen every day, and all too often there’s not any way to get compensation for the damage because you don’t know who was involved. But thanks to this girl and her note, the driver is able to get his car repaired by the bus company.

I was really impressed by this story because it said something important to me about how at least some of this next generation is being raised. The fact that this girl wanted to write a note and return to the scene with it says that someone taught her that sometimes something as simple as telling the truth can make all the difference in the world. She didn’t have to write the note, she didn’t have to get involved, and she wasn’t involved in causing the accident and wasn’t even on the bus. She just happened to be passing by, was familiar with the bus and knew that someone would be upset when they got back to their car.

Her good deed also speaks to the importance of being aware of what’s going on around you, and the skill of giving attention to detail that seems to be a dying art. Knowing the small detail like the bus number, something not everyone would know, meant she could not only give the car owner the story, but also the details that would help him get the situation resolved.

There are lots of things that parents try to teach their kids today, especially about navigating this rapidly changing and technologically advanced world and all the people we share it with.  But this girl and the story shows that it’s not always about the new and advanced, something as simple as a hand written note, the truth, and a willingness to speak up are all that this girl needed to save the day.   This girl’s story gives me hope that parents and teachers are imparting to at least some of the kids how to help others.

Are you teaching your kids to do the right thing?  This holiday season is a great time to remember and support the community you live in and the people you share it with.  So whether it’s volunteering at a food bank, donating to a coat drive, donating toys, or just saying “thank you” even the kids can help make someone’s holiday season special.

Let’s Talk About Shopping Small

We’ve just had Thanksgiving, Black Friday was today and it’s just a few hours to Small Business Saturday! It’s a chance to recognize, thank, support and celebrate the men and women who are making a difference in communities around the US through their businesses. With the internet and technology today many of those small businesses are able to expand outside of their physical community, but it all started with celebrating the small shops that dot towns across the nation.

The US used to be built on all these little businesses, that’s how your town or city would run. Now we’ve got products and services that we can tap into outside of our little circles, and often without interacting directly with any people, but I still think there’s an incredible value to be found by shopping small. One of the best reasons to shop small are the relationships you can build with people, people who can give you a more personalized service and an experience that typically can’t be created online with the internet separating the buyer from the seller.

Are small businesses perfect? No, of course not. Just like many businesses they most likely have room for improvement too, and some don’t measure up to the quality or value that they could. But unless people get out there and try out those businesses, they’ll never know what kind of treasure is just around the corner from them. And unless small businesses spread the word about their existence the people won’t be able to experience them.

This weekend I would encourage you to visit at least one small business in your community, whether a restaurant, seasonal shop, coffee shop, or seasonal activity, and an online small business. When you check out or pay if you’ve got the opportunity let them know how thankful you are that they’re part of your community, part of the small business community, and that they’re sharing their passions, skills, experience, and knowledge with their community through their business.

Teaching Thanksgiving

One of our greatest responsibilities is to teach the next generation. Yes, that’s something that their parents and school teachers should take the primary role of, but to an extent it’s something we all have a responsibility to do. How do the rest of us teach them, the kids who aren’t our own? We teach them by being responsible, by how we treat them and their parents if we interact with them, by using manners when speaking with them, by how we drive, and in countless other ways that they’re exposed to or may hear about. In some of these situations the kids may not see us, but our actions will have a direct impact on their parents, for example if we’re a bad driver, or the words we have for their parents that hurt or stress them will trickle down to impact the kids.

The other side of that is true too: that when we do something kind, considerate or generous we can teach kids too. These types of interaction teach kids that not everyone is mean or angry, that there are supportive communities throughout the world, and that not everything about life is stressful or challenging. Even when we’re not in a situation to remember or be reminded of the kids someone has, just about everyone has a family and your words and actions can impact them, so it’s always smart to think before you act or speak, or just choose to do the right thing and treat others with respect all the time.

As a parent it is important to teach your kids how to handle life’s challenges absolutely. There are families around the US who aren’t going to be in their homes this Thanksgiving because of the mess nature has handed them from water or fire damage and destruction. But you also have to teach them that life is so much more than that. There are manners to use, relationships to build, people and pets to love, things to learn, goals to achieve, victories to create, dreams to realize, and blessings to celebrate.

How do you teach them to be thankful? Thanksgiving is a great opportunity because it’s a day that we often share what we’re thankful for.  In addition to teaching your kids manners and to recognize and appreciate blessings, you can have a thankfulness jar that you all add slips of paper to on a regular basis throughout the year to reinforce giving thanks and then read them on Thanksgiving or throughout the year when you all need a bit of encouragement.  You can go around the dinner or homework table each week and share what you’re all thankful for.  You can make a point of giving thanks before bed or sharing what you’re thankful for.

Will you teach your kids about giving thanks this Thanksgiving?

A Community for Veterans

November 11 is Veteran’s Day here in the US, a day when we honor and remember the men and women who protect our country. Sometimes that means going to fight in a war, sometimes that means dragging a boat through flood waters to rescue people, sometimes that means helping a nation rebuild, sometimes that means protecting dignitaries, sometimes it means sitting behind a computer, sometimes that means speaking to high school and college students.

But being in the military is a high risk career, one that carries physical and mental risks for the soldiers as well as relational ones. Whether you know any veterans or not, you hear stories and see commercials on TV about how people lost limbs and marriages due to their military career. They don’t really tell you what it’s like to have a TBI or try to return to civilian life after you’re done when you sign up.

But a veteran is a lot more than just someone who goes out for the country and does stuff. They’re people who are part of a family, they’re people who live in our communities, and they and their families need our support. Veteran’s Day is an opportunity for us as a community to stand up and do more than just thank them for their service, although that’s a good start. It’s an opportunity for us to help them build businesses, help raise service dogs for them, donate to organizations that help them navigate returning to civilian life, help build adaptive houses for them, and give them flexible but reliable job opportunities.

So today I encourage you to not only thank a veteran and their family, but also step up for them in some way in your community or in the veteran community as a whole.

Halloween Lessons

Halloween is Wednesday so today I thought I’d share a few thoughts on lessons you can share with your kids for Halloween, and you might find they apply to you too.

Tricks: sometimes life sends you tricks. Yes, sometimes you can choose if you want the trick or the treat, but often you don’t get a choice, life chooses for you.  It’s really a question of how well you’re going to deal with the trick you’ve received, the attitude you’ll work through it with and what you’ll do after you’ve survived.

And Treats: Halloween is a bit of a catch for those who watch their sugar, because it’s really a celebration of treats and sweets. It’s a reminder that sometimes life is short and treats should be eaten and enjoyed, especially in moderation.

Costumes: the other big thing about Halloween is everyone dresses up. Yes, sometimes its good to try new things and see if they could be the right direction for us, after all, if we don’t try new things we can’t know if they would be right for us. Sometimes it’s just fun to be someone else for a little while, even though we’re satisfied with our lives.

Community: the whole concept is based around going from house to house around your neighborhood, and expecting those homes to open up and share candy or other treats. It’s not something we do with any other holiday, only Halloween.

What has Halloween taught you?

A Visit to the Library

I did something this week that I haven’t done in a while: took my work to the library. I had a couple of appointments in an area and decide that it would be more productive if I didn’t run home in between the appointments so I brought some work with me and decided I would work at the library in between appointments and errands. As I worked I watched the comings and goings of people of all ages. I watched parents and kids get excited about the books they could check out, heard librarians helping visitors find books and movies, and listened to the librarians make plans for how they could better organize their collection of materials to better serve their community.

It all reminded me how important something like a library is to the local community. It’s a place where people of all ages are and can learn from each other. It’s a place where you can work and learn. It’s a place where kids who don’t have grandparents can see seniors and learn that they’re not scary. It’s a place where kids can have instilled in them an appetite for learning, knowledge, curiosity, creativity and growth. It’s a place where teens can come with their friends and learn how to respect others while still hanging out with their friends. It’s a place where groups can come together to learn about different crafts or historical events or hear from local authors. It’s a safe, warm, dry place to go when you need a break from your life.

If you haven’t been to the library recently I encourage you to go visit and bring the kids along as well. You can save a lot of money on movies and books for them (and yourself) and keep them entertained for hours. If you can make a donation of books that your kids don’t read anymore or have outgrown or make a donation to their Friends of the Library fund (it’s tax deductible!).  What do you love most about your local library?

Personal VS Public

Recently I’ve been thinking about how blurry the lines are between many public and private things. We expect to hear about what’s going on in the lives of celebrities, we expect to hear about how things are developing in natural disasters in great detail, we expect to know everything about the officials we elect, and we expect that what we see or hear is what we get. But for most of us, we’re not supposed to be living our full lives in the public eye. It’s uncomfortable to do so. It’s healthy to live some of your life in the public eye, and for that reason all of the advances in technology are great, but there’s something important about having a personal life too.

Our personal life is where we work through our personal challenges, enjoy being alone with ourselves, enjoy being with family and friends, try new things, and work on our inner self mentally and spiritually. It’s our time to be quiet, to laugh, to love, to be the person that only those who we trust most can see. It’s our time to grieve and work through the growing pains. It’s our time to come to terms with changes in our lives and in the world around us. It’s not a time for us to hurt others or ourselves, that’s not something we should do in personal or private.

Sometimes we bring what’s in our personal lives to the public eye, especially when it something we want support on, want to raise awareness for, or want to share our story with others so they’re comfortable sharing their story and/or getting the help they need in a similar situation. But we should never judge people for not sharing their personal lives with the greater public, especially if it’s a painful situation and they were getting the help and support they needed.

So my encouragement to you today would be that before you jump to judge someone over something they didn’t share or did share, that you take a moment to remember that it’s their story and their life and they have to do what they think is right when they think it’s right. Your job is to support them and love them, especially when they’re being brave enough to share their story with you.

Taking Time To Remember

Today in the USA is one of the days during the year that we take time to remember. Today 9/11, we take time to remember the 4 attacks on September 11, 2001, 2 in NYC, one in Pennsylvania, and one at the Pentagon in Washington DC. We stop to remember the 2,977 people who died as a result of the actions of men and women who hated us. Although it’s been 17 years, for many of us it feels like just yesterday. Most of us can remember exactly where we were when it happened. For countless people around the world we have a personal connection to someone who died that day.

We hear the stories from those who were in and around NYC or the Pentagon and helped rescue countless others. We also hear the stories of the people they knew intimately who died while saving lives or just living their lives. We don’t hear the stories from the people in Pennsylvania because they didn’t survive but instead gave their lives to save many others, in some ways making them the biggest heroes of that tragedy.

It’s not fun to remember 9/11 or the days that followed as we came to understand the seriousness of what happened, but it is important. The US was forever changed by the actions of those who hated us that day, in ways that it hadn’t been touched previously. We remember those 2,977 people because they made a sacrifice that day most didn’t plan on or agree to make. We remember their families so they know they aren’t forgotten. We remember in hopes of creating a tomorrow someday that doesn’t include the fear of similar events happening and families don’t have to go through similar pain.

I encourage you to take time to remember today. Remember those you’ve lost and remember those who have touched your life but aren’t part of it anymore, and take time to give thanks for them and the life you have today.

Thankful to be Alive

Second chances are a powerful thing. This week we learned that the boys and their soccer coach who went missing while visiting a cave in Thailand were still alive. They were in the cave for 9 days before they were found, and in the days since then people from around the world have been providing the expertise they have in caves and engineering to try to help and get the kids out before they run out of oxygen or the cave floods. Of course many of us are reminded of the Chilean miners who were trapped in a cave for 69 days in 2010. It took a serious effort to get them all out, and while the situation is different, it’s no less overwhelming or scary for the family members of the children and the soccer coach.

I believe that blame does have a place, but not here and now. It can come after we know how the story ends, hopefully with tales of rescue. This week for the kids and parents has been an opportunity to reconnect and share messages that may never have gotten out if they weren’t found. It’s an opportunity for them to talk again and see each other again.

Every day we deal with tragedies, and the loss of people who are killed accidentally or intentionally. There are very few cases of people who have absolutely no one who will miss them, there’s almost always someone left behind who will have to deal with the loss. In so many of those cases there wasn’t the opportunity for last messages, for apologies, for anything except to deal with the loss. But these families have had the chance this week to reconnect, even if it’s with a lot of earth between them.

We’re not guaranteed anything but today. You can’t predict or control what others do, you only have control over yourself. Don’t make light of second chances. Live and love today not because it might be your last day, but because you’re alive today.