Maybe you aren’t particularly compassionate. No problem.
Because giving can be a selfish act, too.
The science tells us it feels good. Look at all the studies that show the ventral striatum firing off dopamine like a Roman candle the moment someone gives to charity. It feels good to give.
So here is my gift to all of you: my annual #GivingTuesday column, with five ways to help you feel totally awesome. (And you might make a difference, too.)
Immigrants might be the perfect way to feel good about yourself.
I can tell you the roomful of people at the Carlos Rosario International Public Charter School earlier this year felt terrific when we each got an adorable little meringue dessert shaped like a pineapple.
The school’s culinary students — all immigrants — had been up all night making a couple-hundred little plates, each with a dainty pineapple dacquoise, for an annual luncheon.
“I like it here,” one of the students told me, as he served the desserts. “But now, it’s not just hard work at school. It’s also hard because it feels like not all Americans want us here.”
And that’s heartbreaking. The school has helped immigrants from places such as El Salvador, Ethiopia, Cameroon and Jamaica create vibrant lives as business owners, doctors, teachers and computer programmers in their new country. The classes, programs and support make America stronger. Helping the school will also open you to the wonderful, diverse world of their events — from lunches to bazaars of handcrafted goods.
Want your kids to understand how good it feels to give?
Let’s be honest, the giving season is also a time when you want your kids to be a little less monstrous and greedy and a little more generous. And that’s not always easy to do.
Rachel Harris was a Loudoun County 6-year-old when she was sorting her used toys to give to charity and asked her mom whether she could do more. Because a tired stuffed animal doesn’t close the opportunity gap — the summer camps, the movie tickets, the bikes — that are missing from the lives of kids in need.
Ten years later, Rachel’s nonprofit charity, Let’s Help Kids, has donated nearly 2,000 weeks of summer camp, almost 300 musical instruments, about 900 Halloween costumes and, yes, lots of toys to kids in need. This charity helps local kids, but the story and the interactive website can help your own kids engage in the act of giving.
Is Grandma making you feel guilty? Aging can be lonely. And frustrating. And depressing. But a flurry of recent medical studies has found a miracle cure that cuts off depression, delays dementia and even helps restore some physical vigor. It doesn’t come in a bottle, either.
It’s, quite simply, art.
A group in Maryland, Arts for the Aging, is getting seniors to play djembe drums, learn Kathak dancing, appreciate opera, write poetry and visit art exhibits. And the results are astonishing as health-care workers and family members see seniors more vibrant, focused and invigorated. Take the colorful, cubist works of Karla Klopfenstein Kombrink, 70, who came out of her sullen shell after she began working with artists and even had some of her work on display.
“Art saved my mother’s life,” said Kyle Roche, her daughter, who saw her formerly shut-down mom blossom after being introduced to the program. Arts for the Aging is always looking for help in bringing its programs to underserved communities or for artists who would be willing to give up their time and expertise to one of the best audiences they’ll ever have.
Do you want to make your neighbors happy?
You know those homes on the block, they’ve usually been in a family for generations. And though the occupants may own the home, they’re struggling on repairs, improvement and upkeep, either for financial or physical reasons. This is often when predatory gentrification happens, when developers start making calls and knocking on doors, offering a bargain price for a home the family would rather stay in but can’t afford to maintain.
There’s a group in Prince George’s County that looks like a huge party each time they descend on a house and do the work that helps original residents stay in their homes.
And I love that they are called Christmas in April, because it’s too often that needy folks are forgotten the rest of the year. Christmas in April is always looking for helping hands to do some of the work, or for help buying materials and organizing their work days. (And in case you haven’t cried over any holiday ads yet, go to their website, and read some of the thank you letters they get.)
Think your town deserves a voice?
This has been a tough year for the First Amendment. And though the killing of Washington Post contributing columnist Jamal Khashoggi made international news, the massacre of five employees at the Capital Gazette’s Annapolis office this summer sent a palpable chill through our nation’s communities as well as our newsrooms.
The business has never been easy. Now we know that even in an American, capital city, it can be unsafe.
If the slaughter of Gerald Fischman, John McNamara, Robert Hiaasen, Wendi Winters and Rebecca Smith does anything, we hope it underscores the importance of local journalism to a community. Funding the scholarship in their names will honor the work they did and encourage the essential work that journalists will continue to do every day, in every town in America.
Wouldn’t that make you feel good?