I have never quite understood the madness that occurs on Black Friday. Just one day prior, friends and family sat lovingly around the table, remembered the year’s blessings, mourned the losses, and reflected on the humble beginnings of our country. They indulged in a home cooked meal, cheered on their favorite football team, and had real conversation. Then, 24 hours later, emerges the frenzy of shoppers, carts loaded with TVs, angry outbursts, crashing websites, and empty wallets. How can this be?
After consideration, I believe that BOTH Thanksgiving, and Black Friday are motivated by the act of GIVING. The hours of preparation required to provide the delicious turkey and pumpkin pie, as well as the desire to find the perfect gift for the perfect person comes from the innate desire to make others happy. Mankind, as a rule is called to give.
Do you want to make your relationships better? Give. Would you like to be calm, patient or loving? Give. Research proves that the hormone Oxytocin is released as acts of kindness are carried out. This hormone is responsible for the increase in “pro-social” behaviors, relaxation, trust, and psychological stability. The thought process that occurs when thinking of others while NOT focusing inward has huge positive benefits, both physical and emotional.
There is a catch: the WAY a person contributes to the world around him will determine the benefit he receives. Three types of givers have been identified: Grudge givers, who feel they HAVE TO give, Duty givers, who believe they are FORCED to donate, and Thanks givers, who willingly surrender all they have. Freely letting go of a thought, idea, or possession for the sole purpose of benefitting another will always bring joy and satisfaction to the giver. The true character of a person, it is said, is the way that person treats someone who can do nothing for him. Giving much, expecting little. This formula is the key to peace and lifelong happiness.
The desperate need for Thanks givers is unmistakable. In this world that has been filled with divisiveness, judgment, and hostility, simply look out the car window on your next trip, and you will undoubtedly notice the abundance of signs that read “Love One Another.” They are everywhere… windows, front yards, and car bumpers.
I recently found a “kindness rock” perched on a lamp pole in a parking lot, strategically placed to bring a smile to the lucky finder’s face. Instagram and TikTok reveal that
#giving is one of the most popular and trending hashtags for the year 2023. Imagine, for a moment, a world without individuals who choose to give. This unthinkable scenario would include towns void of volunteer firefighters, scout leaders, and 12-Step program sponsors. Charity benefit dinners, the Red Cross, AmeriCorps, auxiliaries, and PTA groups would not exist. Needs would be great, and morale would be low. How comforting to realize that throughout communities, hearts are coming together to collectively acknowledge that the motto “it is better to give than receive,” is sage advice.
The opportunity to give, share, and contribute is available to everyone, and takes many forms. Giving a few dollars to the homeless couple outside Walmart, paying for the meal of the next car in line at the drive-through, volunteering at the animal rescue, cooking a pot of soup, or changing the oil in the car for a family struggling with illness are ways to give. Whatever a person’s talent or interest is it can be used to improve lives. A listening ear, an understanding and accepting attitude, a personal story that can validate another are ways to make a valuable change, as others in need receive a priceless gift. Share that story and plant the seed of hope. Although the result of this act may not be obvious immediately, the seed will grow in its own time, and will produce more beauty and goodness as the seasons allow. Robert Louis Stevenson quotes this: “Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds you plant.”
As the holidays draw near, ponder on the meaning and origin of this season. It is about giving. To Christians, the world was given a baby who was Jesus the Savior, St. Nicholas (better known as Santa Claus) was a monk born in 280 A.D. who gave away all he had to the poor. The last day of Kwanzaa, Imani, focuses on gift-giving to affirm self-worth, and Hanukkah celebrates the “8 Days of Giving” in recognition of the power of thinking of others. Different cultures, different beliefs, but the core knowledge is that giving is an essential part of life . Ebenezer Scrooge turned from his “Bah-Humbug” ways and vowed to be a cheerful giver for the rest of his days, Rudolph devoted his loyalty and time to save the joy of Christmas morning for children around the world, and the horrible, rotten Grinch who stole Christmas had this revelation:
Giving, sharing, donating… whatever word is chosen, it stands for a selfless act that is meant to benefit another. By nature, giving will provide countless benefits to the giver and receiver, and it will touch the future.
On a personal note: Every day you choose to give of yourself, your time, and your heart
to the individuals you serve, YOU are a Thanks- giver. You share so many things each moment, both professionally and personally: your struggles, your strength, and your
secrets to success. You give understanding, hope and a clear picture of recovery. This
Christmas season, as you balance work and family, know that the hours you spend scouring Amazon or Etsy, the mile long line you stand in at TJ Maxx to purchase that amazing present, and the session on Christmas Eve that you work with a peer that has no family is your way of paying it forward; your way of acknowledging everything that has been given to you, and making your part of the universe a much better place.
Holly Girty, CPSS, Supervisor II