Whether you celebrate Christmas or not, by mid-November, your television and retail experience is transformed into doorbusting commercial seduction. We're immersed in a "come to buy,come to buy/don't miss these low, low prices" retail paradise gift wrapped in Cyber Monday and fastened with a big Black Friday bow. Singer Tina Lear captures that hustle brilliantly in the :54 second track below. But there's new momentum this year in the movement to counterbalance commercial indulgence by dialing back to the true spirit of the season. Giving Tuesday, the first Tuesday after Thanksgiving, is celebrated by 68 countries and on Tuesday, December 1, people everywhere will express philanthropic impulses with the goal of bettering our world. That's a magic that every faith and income level can participate in creating; the magic of the season.
Henry Timms, brainchild of Giving Tuesday and Director of New York's 92Y, explains that the philosophy of the event itself is philanthropic and unfolds unlike standard commercial fundraising models. "The old-power way of thinking of a project like this is thinking of it as a franchise. You make sure everyone fits into the boxes provided," Timms told Fast Company.com. Rather than restricting the campaign's messaging and logos to benefit 92Y or to siphon proprietary profit from the event, he chose to open it up by inviting creativity, individuality, and benefit for all participants. "We made a decision that it was designed to be open-sourced and owned by other people," says Timms. Since 2012, when the movement was conceived, it's grown and morphed into many different localized campaigns as he explained to the Guardian in August. "You see cities, towns and villages coming together to not tell a national Giving Tuesday story but a very local one. And it’s brought some interesting moments,” Timms says. “People take it and make it their own – they flip the hashtag and turn it into something new.”
How does Giving Tuesday work? Individual giving on Tuesday (to the charity of your choice or in the manner you choose) is amplified in the aggregate by the volume of people acting for good on a single day. The result? A worldwide burst of goodwill. Join the movement. Give any way you can to anyone or anything in need. Pay it forward in your drive-through coffee line or donate big bucks to charity. Charities rely on crucial year end giving to fund year round services. Arrange for a giving tree in your lobby at work or host a charitable fundraiser at home! Smile more than usual or invite a friend to dinner. Revive your random acts of kindness or come through on a promise you've been meaning to honor for a long time. Give of yourself. Tuesday Dec 1 is the day to act.
Those readers with natural generosity will gravitate to Giving Tuesday but others will need some motivation. Science has some advice....giving is good for your health. That's right, Notre Dame sociologists have just published findings from the Science of Generosity Initiative that show better health outcomes and lower levels of depression in people who consistently give. "We’re trying to understand where generosity comes from, but also what the consequences of generosity are," co-researcher and co-author of The Paradox of Generosity, Christian Smith, explained to the New Republic. Smith and co-author Hilary Davidson argue that the practice of generosity influences neurochemistry by triggering pleasure centers. To experience lasting neurochemical change though, generosity, Smith says, "...has to be a practice, it has to be something that is sustained over time, that people engage with regularly. One-off things just don’t affect us that much, whereas things that we repeat, things that are sustained in our bodily behaviors and in our minds, have tremendous effects on us." So, don't stop on Giving Tuesday. Let Tuesday and the holiday season be the start of an ongoing practice of generosity.
As Dickens' novel, A Christmas Carol illustrates, December heralds an opportunity for all of us to re-evaluate our orientation to generosity. Giving Tuesday is just the first day of many in December that present the opportunity to connect with the spirit of the season by giving of our time, touching another life, or contributing to making the world a better place. May you be inspired and transformed, Dear Reader, by the magic of the season.
Update December 2015. A not so enthusiastic article from NPR. In it they quote Brady Jacobsen of a company called Shift who "wishes wishes that #GivingTuesday didn't have to be in December, when 31 percent of all charitable giving happens because of the holiday season and the end-of-year tax incentive."