November is by far my favorite month of the year! As a professional fundraiser, I spend the bulk of my year working to develop financial and volunteer support, much like many of my colleagues. All too often, we move on from one gift to the next without completely savoring the moment and celebrating the “attitude of gratitude” which is why National Philanthropy Day is such a “big deal” in our profession.
On Nov. 6, 200-plus of our closest friends gathered to thank a handful of people who make Fresno and the surrounding communities great places to live.
Whether it was their dollars or their personal time, each honoree gave with heart and purpose, and on that day, we paused for a brief moment to applaud their efforts. As Cicero once said “Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues but the parent of all others.” As a member of the awards committee, I am keenly aware that this was a small handful of worthy folks whose names had risen to the top. While packing up my files from this year’s event, I sat and wondered, “How many others are out there right now changing the world with giving hearts?”
Each day, there are random acts of kindness happening all around us. While they may not be a million-dollar gift or 1,000 hours of community service, they touch lives and somehow make a moment brighter. We all get too busy in this microwavable, instant-access world to slow down and soak in what is right with the world. I am probably the worst offender! More often than not, I am doing a “drive-by” in my own life and fail to notice the simple beauty and goodness around me.
This is not to say that I wasn’t given the proper guidance, since I spent countless hours as a child lying on the lawn naming the shapes of the clouds, feeding jack rabbits from our vineyard or resting my face on the cool tile of my Baba’s kitchen table. Somehow, time and the demands of my life starting increasing the speed of my treadmill, and I am now sprinting to keep up with the world I have created.
Case in point: a month or so ago, I was frantically running into a building on the Fresno State campus for a meeting. As I approached the door, the strap on my favorite shoes snapped, leaving me limping into the building like Quasimodo.
Grumbling the entire way, I drove to Petro’s hoping he could revive my poor shoe. I zoomed in and out, without taking time to connect on a personal level. Sadly, this is a sign of the times.
When I picked the shoes up, it was the same speed racer routine— except it wasn’t “instant” because they take don’t plastic! As I looked for excuses, the shopkeeper said, “Here take your shoes. Don’t worry about it. You can mail me the money or stop by later.” He trusted me, a complete stranger. This was probably the nicest thing that happened to me all month. However, if I had not taken the time to notice this or perhaps viewed this cynically or from a jaded or negative perspective, I would have missed this simple yet golden moment. While this is not a major gift donation or a publicly recognizable philanthropic donation, it was the genuine gift of kindness.
As we quickly march forward toward the holiday season, armed with our credit cards and Amazon accounts, we will be bombarded by the commercially driven spirit of the season of giving.
This year, consider your motivations and not the new, bigger, better or shinier thing. After Black Friday and Cyber Monday, consider celebrating the very uncommercial Giving Tuesday on Dec. 2 and start a new family tradition of helping others.
Last year, I celebrated my Giving Tuesday by tweeting an “unselfie” (a picture of myself holding up a sign with the name of the cause I supported). While this was a shameless plug for my pet project, my colleagues took notice (even if it was to laugh and tell me I have “too much time on my hands”!) Some actually followed suit. Maybe I can start a positive trend!
So this year, let’s take a moment to slow down, appreciate and be an active part of what is good about the world. Practice an attitude of gratitude.