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November 30, 2014

12 Days of Giving: How to Share the Love this Season.

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So, another Black Friday has come and gone.

And, apparently we do such a good job at making total fools of ourselves on this day that we have even inspired the British to copy our materialistic ways.

Yay for capitalism?

Well, ’tis the season you know.

Yep, sure is. The season of. . . what, exactly? To many, it’s the season of miles, points and Benjamins, all provided in abundance courtesy of Visa, December’s BFF—it’s everywhere you want to be.

It also is the season of giving. Actually, I mean getting.

Unarguably, the emphasis of Christmas has shifted rather dramatically to one of receipt as opposed a celebration of the spirit of benevolence. Our national perspective of generosity is promoted heavily as spending more, eating more, doing more and getting more—right now.

Why? Because more is better, size matters and our sense of urgency and competition trump patience and authenticity, right? Yeah, no.

Exhausting our resources, draining our time, energy and bank accounts does little to serve us, nor those whom we seek to serve. When the glitter and sparkle of December gives way to January’s austerity, all that remains is a house full of possessions and empty hearts. Things have a shelf life. Acts do not.

Goodwill is not demonstrated by the bestowal of gifts. It is your actions and intentions, in the end, that determine your real contributions to the world.

This is hardly a novel concept. In fact, I wrote about this last Christmas, actually, and this year I’m grateful to be where I am and sharing my experience with others, because, hooray, the 12 Days of Giving are upon us.

To sum the idea’s origin (and to save you a click and an entertaining read), last year I had a bit of an epiphany at the end of November. My youngest child, then five, played the role of Messenger for the Universe when he announced to me one night during dinner something to the effect of:

“Mom, I’m getting _____ for Christmas this year.”

Getting. Not want. Not I would like. Getting.

If that doesn’t sound like a declaration from a middle class American child then I don’t know what does. This, I realized, was a sign of a bigger problem.

The current status of the my life’s operating system was clearly reading “level one lifestyle download in progress, 75% complete.” Oops.

So, I spent a bit of time reflecting on how I show gratitude and continue to give often and in abundance to others, and more importantly, how I articulate this to my children. Apparently the subtle methods of demonstration I’d been employing weren’t enough. It was time for something more impactful. Bigger, but not in a tangible or packaged way.

This is how I landed on the 12 Days of Giving. If there’s a song about 12 days of presents, why can’t there also exist an experience of 12 days of presence?

The simple concept centers around authenticity—being genuine in our intentions, fully present and with zero expectations. 

And so, for 12 days in December, we practice the art of giving—of our time, our service, our devotion, our love, our energies and sometimes, an actual tangible (but meaningful) gift.

Here’s what this looks like in my house:

1. We sit down as a family and brainstorm what we have to offer, what needs we see in our communities and what kinds of things we are interested in offering.

2. We put a call out (like this one, ahem) to see what ideas our friends families and networks might have using social media, conversations with real live people and good old serendipity.

3. We make a list, a graph or a chart with our game plan. Time permitting, we even get our craft on during this endeavor so we can double duty family time with a bit of creative expression.

4. We review our list to identify what materials, resources or arrangements are required, gather them and then…

5. Get out and get giving!

Last year the experience was so powerful that my children not only talked about it all year, they finally began to see their role in the community as a giver. They wanted to do more, to keep giving; they didn’t want to limit their generosity to just one month of the year.

B-I-N-G-O.

Nailed it.

Hands dusting off, fists pumping, knuckles bumping, give me five!

Because, while I will screw up a lot of things as a mother, if I can get this one thing right—this basic understanding of altruism—then I just might have done something worthwhile. The world might be just a little bit better. People might be a little bit happier. And maybe, somehow, we can get back to what matters. Maybe, things like Black Friday can be…repurposed.

Maybe. As my son says “there’s always hope.”

Love elephant and want to go steady?

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Author: Michelle Sweezey

Editor: Catherine Monkman

Photo: Amy Brown/Flickr

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