Seems like everyone has their hands outreached this time of year. Salvation Army bells ring as we enter stores, our mail is full of charitable requests, and it seems every organization in which our children or friends are involved is selling candy, holiday greenery, popcorn – you name it – for the sake of their charity.  There is indeed an ocean of need out there, and it often seems that our small donations are hardly making a dent. How can we give enough to really make a difference?  How can we give with pure intention?

Four thoughts to keep in mind as we open our hearts and pocketbooks to those causes which stir us at our deepest level:

    • First, decide how much you can afford to give. Many of us push our financials more than we could really afford. This is not healthy or smart, as we need to remember sustainability is a key dimension of our charitable attitudes. For some, this may be 1% of our annual income, and for others it could be substantially more.  I ran across an excellent financial management site:, which has a segment under “pledge” which can help us determine what percentage is advised for our level of income.
    • Secondly, we need to determine what charities are most important to us. Most of us can’t contribute to all passions which tug at our hearts. This is where we can get into trouble; as before you know it we can give and give without realizing we have given way beyond our means. Just like with all our other budgetary objectives, we need to prioritize which charities are most important to us, what we value, and which needs are most crticial to us and factor this into our budgetary number.
    • We need to follow our plan, and if we really want to make a difference, we want to follow-up with our charities in 2014 to see how our money was used, what benefits were realized, and assess whether we believe our money was put to good use.
    • Finally, as I was navigating back to Dallas during the recent ice storm, I stumbled across a very touching article in the Southwest Airlines SPIRIT magazine,, which highlighted a few poignant stories of folks giving a helping hand strangers in their daily lives. Showing compassion through these random acts of kindness can be a soul-lifting experience this season and throughout the year. On example in this particular article was shared by a gentleman in Houston, Texas. He shared how a family evacuating a few years ago from Hurricane Katrina stopped at a coffee shop in Caldwell, Texas. They were destitute, had lost everything they owned. When they went to the door of this shop, they realized it was closed. However, the shop’s owner came out shortly baring hot coffee and pastries for everyone, and said it was ‘on the house’. The owner did not have any idea what this family had just experienced; yet, his small gesture of kindness made an enormous impact on this family.

You see, it doesn’t matter if we donate $1.00, $100.00 or $100,000.00 – or if we simply give of ourselves, we can individually and collectively make a difference. And most importantly, we need to remember, that giving of our time and with our hearts is equally valued. Give an hour at a soup kitchen, wrap packages at “Santa’s Store” or visit a home for the elderly. Our hearts, minds and spirits will be richer through giving, in whatever form this takes.


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