Tuesday November 27, 2012

Remember when Thanksgiving was about breaking bread with your family and friends and, as the name implies, giving thanks for the bounty in our lives? Remember when Christmas was about celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ and sharing gifts that conveyed our deep abiding love for each other?

Truth be told, it’s hard to remember when each year we are inundated, earlier and earlier, with promises of material goods at cut-rate prices. It can be hard for us to reclaim the spirit of the season when we are constantly bombarded with slick advertising campaigns that try to convince us the best way to show our love is by giving the latest electronic gadget, a big-screen television or a violent video game.

Black Friday now starts the day before, on Thanksgiving, and queuing up at the front door of the nearest mega-store can be similar to participating in a rugby scrum or diving into a mosh pit at a punk rock concert.

If you prefer not to take your chances in a shopping cart demolition derby, you can sit at home in your pajamas on Cyber Monday and stalk through the retail pages of the Internet for the best deals.

We’ll pause here and give a shoutout to American Express for thinking up and promoting Small Business Saturday in 2010. Though, at heart, it is nothing more than a clever way to separate us from our money, at least its intent is to remind us that Main Street America has plenty of mom and pops that could use a little bit of holiday cheer.


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Fortunately, our cries of dismay over the theft of Thanksgiving and the crass commercialization of Christmas have been heard above the din of cash registers, holiday music and the clacking of keyboards.

Today, a group of nonprofits are encouraging people to create the first national day of giving, called #GivingTuesday.

According to givingtuesday.org, "On Tuesday November 27, 2012, charities, families, businesses and individuals are coming together to transform the way people think about, talk about and participate in the giving season. It’s a simple idea. Find a way for your family, your community, your company or your organization to join in acts of giving. Tell everyone you can about what you are doing and why it matters. Join a national celebration of our great tradition of generosity."

"#GivingTuesday offers America a new narrative, challenging us to think beyond Black Friday and Cyber Monday and reminding us that the spirit of the holiday giving season should be about community and not just consumerism," said Kathy Calvin, CEO of the UN Foundation. "The most meaningful gift we can give our children, loved ones, friends and neighbors is the commitment to work together to build a better world."

Anyone who wants to join the #GivingTuesday movement should commit to give back to their favorite charity today. For those unsure how they can contribute, there are a number of #GivingTuesday partner initiatives that can be found at givingtuesday.org and on Facebook.

New York’s 92nd Street Y has been the catalyst and incubator for #GivingTuesday.

"The ideas of Tikkum Olam (repairing the world) and giving back are central to our mission," states 92y.org. "In this spirit we brought together a consortium of friends -- charities, businesses and individuals -- and created #GivingTuesday, the day America comes together to give back."

GivingTuesday.org offers a number of ways that people can give back, but locally, there are plenty of ways you can help out: Donate to the Reformer Christmas Stocking or Project Feed the Thousands; volunteer at the Overflow Shelter at the First Baptist Church; bring a bag of groceries to your local food shelf; call the United Way and ask what you can do to help one of its partner organizations; volunteer to read at an assisted living facility; sort incoming donations at the Food Bank; be a mentor at Turning Point or Big Brothers Big Sisters; or help out at the Windham County Humane Society.

Those are just a few of the ways you can participate in #GivingTuesday, which obviously isn’t limited to just today.

The idea is to take today to commit to giving back sometime during the year as a way of honoring what the holiday season used to mean to so many of us.

It’s not that hard, there are plenty of ways of doing it and it’s the right thing to do.