Like so many people who came of age in the 90s, “Rent” is my favorite musical.
I can still sing along to all the songs, and I don’t need Google to tell me that there are 525,600 minutes in a year.
I’ve thought about one song, “Today 4 U,” a lot lately. Angel sings, “Today for you, tomorrow for me” while she tells the story of how she happened upon 1000 dollars right before Christmas. (Um, a woman paid Angel to coax her neighbor’s annoying dog to jump out a window to its death.)
Accomplice to dog murder aside, there’s a way to take this message and apply it—with a twist—to the changing of the year.
I don’t need to belabor the fact that 2020 was hard; we probably all agree. But because it was difficult, it was a “for me” year. We had to focus on our own health, our own finances, our own survival.
Starting January 1st, how about making it a “for you” year? 2020 for me; 2021 for you.
Life is not a zero-sum game. It’s math that doesn’t make sense, but when we give, somehow, we wind up with more.
To start, we know the groups of people hit hardest by the pandemic: children, seniors, and communities of color. We can approach “2021 for you” by considering what kind of an impact we can make by serving those groups with our time, talent, and treasure.
Here are some ideas:
1. Giving our Time to Children
There is no greater way to support a child than with time. Simply being there, as a positive adult, makes a well-researched, statistical difference in the life of a child. Involvement in mentorship programs are an excellent choice, and personally, my heart lies with Big Brothers Big Sisters, the nationwide leader in youth mentoring. (Bonus: Many of the activities set up for matches are free!) For those in rural areas, reach out to local schools to see if they have mentorship, “study buddy,” or “reading partner” types of programs.
2. Giving our Time to Seniors
Connection was a major piece missing in the lives of seniors in 2020. Meals on Wheels allows volunteers to reach out via the Great Connector: food! Letters of Love, with the nonprofit Love for Our Elders, allows us to connect with seniors across the globe. All we need is paper, an envelope, a stamp, and a willingness to reach out and share. This is my family’s winter break project, and unsuspecting seniors are going to receive colorful art from the next Kandinsky. (My four-year-old’s style is absolutely abstract expressionist.)
3. Giving our Time to Communities of Color
Black Girls Code offers a unique opportunity to combine mentorship with our tech talent. If our tech skills are a little lacking, rapper Common’s Common Ground Foundation offers a variety of options to get involved and serve, as does Color of Change. And let’s never underestimate the power of participating in our democracy through consistently contacting our legislators about issues that affect communities of color such as immigration, voting rights, and criminal justice reform.
4. Donating Talent
We can offer our art skills to design a logo for a group or business or offer to do face painting at our neighborhood school’s carnival. We can contact a local hospital and offer to make balloon animals in the children’s wing or reach out to a senior center with an offer to play music. If we’re pros with iMovie, we can offer to create a promotional video for an organization that serves a group disproportionately touched by the pandemic. Fitness instructors could offer a donation-based class to benefit a cause. If we have an art, craft, or service skill, we could donate it to a fundraiser of a group that is important to us.
5. Donating Treasure
What pulls at our heartstrings? That’s where our money should go, and every dollar makes a difference. If everyone who cared about seeing children thrive gave just 5 dollars to the Save the Children, thousands would be raised for kids around the globe! BIPOC communities are aided by donations to the NAACP, and the Honor Flight Network supports senior veterans in getting to Washington D.C.
If a hyper local approach appeals to us, we can donate to the field trip fund of our nearest school. Business owners or heads of companies could incentivize employees to participate in youth, senior, or minority causes. For example, we can offer 80 percent of the traditional year-end bonus to those who don’t participate in any causes (on a list we generate) but 100 percent of the yearly bonus to those who do.
The ideas above are designed to get us thinking about what matters to us and where we can make a difference.
Let’s grab our drumsticks (or wooden spoons), dance around the living room Angel Dumott Schunard-style, and ask ourselves:
What am I going to do with my 525,600 minutes of this next year? What inspires me?
2020 for me; 2021 for you. Let’s make it a reality.
*Author’s Note: Are you a Colorado reader reading an article written by a Coloradoan and appearing in a Colorado publication? If so, please consider donating your time, talent, and/or treasure to Big Brothers Big Sisters of Colorado.