Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The End

It is the final day of my 29 day gift giving challenge and I would like to share some insights gained through this experience. You could divide my month-long adventure into three parts. In the first phase I physically participated in acts of charity. Next, I gave gifts both large and small to friends, family, employers, and even "enemies". In the final chapter of my experiment I made small donations to a variety of causes of interest to me and suggested by others.

My acts of giving included things like giving up my subway seat and giving change to the homeless. I determined my pledge in the morning and kept it in mind all day. During these days I was often reminded of how many little things I do already. Smiling at a stranger, holding a door, and helping with a stroller are all gifts easily given in this city; but now that I had one task in mind I wondered if I should also continue with these other gifts. I found my pledge had the potential of causing me to do less.

However, there were many positives that came out of this phase. One of the my favorite days was when I filled my pockets with change and looked for people to give it to. I'm sure I was helped more than the recipients of my pennies. It was such a different mindset and healthier feeling to look to give, rather than shifting my gaze and avoiding contact. I am now convinced that giving heals the giver.

The clich├ęd "joy of giving" continued as I entered phase II. I found it so exciting waking up each day and choosing someone to surprise with a gift. And I could tell that although my presents were often small, they truly touched their recipients. In all cases the feeling between myself and the receiver was enhanced; and in one instance I found the ritual of choosing and offering up a gift to completely shift a relationship dynamic.

My last days of giving were more remote, but very educational. I learned about my friends and the causes they support. Here are a list of some of the organizations I made donations to: Shoes that fit, International Rescue Committee, Child's Play, Sweet Baby Zane, Vitamin Angels, Bent On Learning.

As with most things in life, the end of this project is really not the end, but actually the beginning. For me it is the start of a new approach to giving. It is in this spirit that I have decided to commit myself in this next month to keeping a pocket full of change and to standing on public transportation one day each week so that someone else can have my seat.

Want to make your pledge? Go to www.29gifts.org or simply post your goals here.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

29 Days of Giving

I recently read about a 29-Day gift giving challenge and decided immediately to participate. The premise is very simple and doable and a great way to focus ones attention outward on helping instead of getting trapped in any "whoa is me" winter blues. A gift can be anything from loose change, to clothing, to a smile. What makes it fulfill your daily pledge is your intention. I have only just begun and already I have learned a great deal about my tendencies in giving and receiving. To join me in this incredible endeavor, please sign up at www.29gifts.org. You can start at anytime.

Below is an account of Day One of my 29-Day pledge:

Taking the Long Way Home
Day one of my 29-Day Gift Giving Challenge and I almost didn't make it. I left my house eager and excited to give a packed lunch to a needy New Yorker, but had a hard time finding just the right recipient. Early this morning the homeless I saw were sleeping on subway benches. I asked myself if leaving the package near someone would fulfill my personal pledge and concluded that it would not. So, I trudged through my day with my purse exploding container. Later a man on the train was asking for money in the form of a sort of song. I couldn't stop him chanting long enough to find out if he wanted the food, so on I went. At 2PM I finished teaching my last yoga session and my gift was still in my bag. I had two subway options for heading home. One would let me off directly across from my apartment with little chance of running into anyone in need and the other would let me off way across town. I went with the later, vowing to walk the distance and keep my eyes open for the kind soul who would help me fulfill my obligation. Just a few wet blocks and I found him. It was a great relief and perfect conclusion to my day. He was very polite and happy for the food, but he still wanted some change. I was about to walk away, but changed my mind. I don't know why he also wanted money or what he'll do with it. And I'm not sure it matters. He saw someone willing to stop and give and he asked and I gave. I'd been saving up all my giving for this man and even taken the long way home.