I do love the holiday season, mostly for the food. I also love the chill in the air…because that means boots and knee socks. I love having children underfoot during the holidays, maybe because they are on their best behavior and are crippled with giddiness.
I hate the rampant consumerism that colors the season. I hate that stores are open on Thanksgiving Day; I thought Black Friday was obscene enough. And Cyber Monday? Really? I hate that people refer to this time of year as “the season of giving.” There is no season for giving. That’s like saying ice cream is only for summer when it’s an all season treat. Geesh.
Shouldn’t we be giving — of ourselves, our time, our talent, our dollars — all year long?
This year we are stripping Black Friday and Cyber Monday of the tiara and sash they don as holiday queen and runner up.
On Giving Tuesday we are banding together to share a day of giving back. To our communities. To causes that move us. To friends who need us. Consider it a national day of giving.
I marvel at the thought.
Mac Daddy and I started a tradition of giving with our firstborn on his first birthday. Bird had money jangling in his piggy bank that we had dropped in over the course of the year. When we opened it on his birthday we found some bills that sneaky, generous visiting grandparents must have stuffed in. We decided to save half the money and donate half. Because baby Bird’s first word was “dog,” we donated half the contents of his piggy bank to our local SPCA.
And a tradition was born.
In the years since, we have carried this on with our younger son too. Both boys are now nine and seven. Once they could understand the concept (around age three), we let them choose where to donate the money. Mind you, the amount is not a lot, but that is not what’s important here.
At age three Deal was infatuated with firefighters so we researched an organization that helps families of fallen firefighters. Another year he knew I was walking the Race for the Cure in honor of Susan Niebur. That year he asked to donate money “to help Mommy’s friend.” Bird, who is a book worm on steroids, used his money one year to buy books for our local library. This year we took him to see Jimmy Carter, his namesake, teach Sunday school in Plains, Georgia. Carter spoke with such compassion about the work of The Carter Center. We were fortunate enough to meet him and his wife and have a family photo taken. My son’s birthday was two months out, but he said immediately after that experience that he wanted to donate his birthday money to The Carter Center this year. And so he did. You won’t find a nine year old who knows more about River Blindness. Mac Daddy writes down each year where the boys have chosen to donate their money and tucks the list back into the piggy bank. It will be remarkable to see this list on their eighteenth birthday (when they open the time capsules we’ve stored in the attic since their first birthdays!).
As the years go on we add to the piggy bank giving tradition to include donations of our time and goods too. The boys have volunteered at the food bank, held a lemonade stand to earn money for Japan earthquake relief, delivered bags of food to kids in need, dropped off water to the homeless on sweltering days, and donated their toys and books. But the piggy bank is still my favorite. Every year I can’t wait to hear what cause moves my sons enough for them to count out their money and choose who gets half.
We are a family of traditions. But instilling and inspiring the spirit of giving is more than a family tradition. I hope we are teaching our sons that everyday can be Giving Tuesday.