Filed under: Holiday Giving | Tags: awareness, change, charity, children, Christmas, climate change, education, environment, generosity, giving in hard times, hope, Peace, Santa Claus, sharing, take action, Volunteering
By Cheryl Mahoney
It’s that time of year again. Garlands are strung and lights go up and the malls are packed and kids write letters to Santa Claus. And sometimes, adults do too. Here’s what I might ask for, if I were to write to the man at the North Pole.
Dear Santa Claus (or St. Nicholas, or Father Christmas, or Kris Kringle–whoever’s listening),
I hope you, and Mrs. Claus, and the elves, are all well this year. In the enchanted land of Santa’s village, I’ve no doubt you are. Out here in the rest of the world, I can’t complain for myself, but the world in general has quite a few troubles. But you’re likely aware of that, considering you have eyes everywhere! So for Christmas this year, while I would like Michael Crawford’s autobiography or the complete Star Trek DVD box set, there are a few bigger matters you might look into.
To start with the most pressing, time-wise, I’d like world leaders at Copenhagen to feel some of that giving, harmonious spirit you embody, and do the right thing for all of us by coming to an agreement for reducing carbon emissions and protecting the planet. Perhaps you’ve encountered the problem of climate change yourself, Santa–have you noticed any melting near the North Pole? If leaders can’t come to an agreement though, please, no coal this year. How about some CFL Lightbulbs instead? Could be a good way to change with the times…
My mother’s been asking for world peace for Christmas (and sometimes birthdays and Mother’s Day too) for years. I think we’d both settle for peace in the Middle East though. And in Darfur. And the Philippines. And…well, perhaps you’d better aim for world peace after all.
I don’t need money, but a few millions would be nice–a million trees planted and a million mosquito nets for Africa and a million soccer balls for kids in refugee camps. And a million girls going to school and a million babies born safely and a million letters sent to old friends.
I’d like unemployment rates to go down, and charitable donations to go up, for volunteering rates to increase and for UniversalGiving’s follower count on Twitter to reach 2,000. I’d like people to think about others who are in need of a little help, and to think about reaching out. And to keep that spirit into the new year.
And in the spirit of “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus” I suppose I’m not really writing to the man at the North Pole at all, but rather–to whoever is listening. Santa might be the only one who can help everyone all by himself (with some help from elves), but everyone can help someone.
“Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy.”
Filed under: Fun Ways to Give, Inspirational Thoughts | Tags: charity ideas, dating, giving in hard times, Inspiring Stories, Maine
By Cheryl Mahoney
Love and charity. I can’t actually think off the top of my head of a famous quote or a Bible phrase where those two are combined (if you know of one, let me know!) but they do seem to be concepts that go hand-in-hand. And I recently happened across a story about a fun new way to combine the two.
I found this article about WeClick. It’s a speed-dating service, with a philanthropic twist. It works basically like the usual run of speed-dating–set in a cafe somewhere, singles move among tables to have five minute chats with potential soulmates. But here’s the key: at least ten percent of the registration fee goes to charity. There’s a different charity each time, advertised before-hand. At their first event, the entire proceeds went to Heifers International, with the tag line “get social, give goats.” Two concepts that you’re less likely to see together…
One thing I love about this is that it’s a perfect example of taking something people already do, and turning it towards a socially conscious purpose. No one has to change their lifestyle or give anything up or make a space in their budget to give to charity–it’s happening as part of something they’re already doing. And that can be so powerful. I also love what an innovative idea this is–and it’s just sheer fun too!
Now, I admit, if you don’t happen to be a single in Maine, this is probably not something you’re actually going to do–though if it becomes a widespread idea, remember that you heard about it here first. So this is a little less relevant than some of the stories we’ve posted here, but just for the enjoyability factor I thought it would be worth sharing anyway. And if you do happen to be a single in Maine, then maybe you should try it out. Love and charity might not be the only ones that end up hand-in-hand.
Filed under: Easy Ways to Give, Fun Ways to Give, Giving, Poverty, Volunteering | Tags: change, charity, free ways to give, giving in hard times, random acts of kindness, San Francisco, service, take action
By Sarah Keyston
I just returned from serving lunch at Glide Memorial in San Francisco with three others on the UniversalGiving team, including our founder and CEO Pamela Hawley, as well as some members of other foundations in our office community. And I have to tell you, it was a truly humbling experience. We walked over from our office to begin our shift at 11:30am, and when we arrived, there was already a line of people waiting to eat. We donned hairnets, aprons, and gloves—and took a few funny pictures!—in preparation for food service.
My job was scooping white beans into one of the spots on the tray. Though the compartmentalized trays reminded me of my plates when I was five years old, the divisions were certainly helpful in our speedy assembly of hundreds of meals. The meal today was a fish and pasta stew with white beans, juicy strawberries, and garlic bread. Definitely a hearty meal, though one adorable man (shorter than I am, and missing a few teeth) came back for a TENTH helping. We volunteers were absolutely blown away by the amount of food that he put away, although it was probably his only chance to eat that day.
Robert, a seasoned member of the Glide team, informed us that the 500-some meals that we served between 12 and 1:30pm comprised a slow day for the kitchen, which often feeds over 1000 people in a single meal. Glide serves three meals a day, 364 days a year (their only day off being New Year’s Day) to many grateful individuals. While some there were quiet and seemingly melancholy, one particularly jolly man asked if we were “forced to work” at Glide, to which we replied that we were merely volunteering. He replied, “Volunteering? Well God bless you then!” I smiled—it is hard to top the feeling of warmth and fulfillment that I get from helping others.
Characters come through the door from all walks of life: homeless, struggling with substance abuse, unemployed. Robert pointed out four people who owned their own homes but could not afford to eat—and even more of a shock to me—five with college degrees. In these tough economic times, an even larger variety of people are suffering from hunger.
Though we often promote international giving opportunities as that is the nature of UniversalGiving, it is always important to remember our local communities. Something like serving meals at a local shelter or church is so easy to do, yet such a small gesture as sacrificing my own lunch break goes a long way in terms of showing compassion towards some very appreciative and hungry San Franciscans.