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Imagine your crimson pot

Posted: December 5, 2013 1:19 p.m.
Updated: December 6, 2013 5:00 a.m.

I’ll be first to admit I’m a pushover when it comes to stories of do-gooders and their noble deeds of “giving back.” As it goes, at this time of the year -- the season of giving -- many of us find ourselves looking for ways to be charitable, for ways to help others in some capacity. No doubt, the stretch between Thanksgiving and New Year’s finds most of us in that feel-good benevolent mood (we hope). And in this bountiful season, exactly where we fall on the generosity meter quite frankly depends less on what we think determines our place on the gauge and more on a much simpler notion of giving.

Throughout this month, we can all imagine a certain scene -- a scene as common to the Christmas season as It’s a Wonderful Life, or as the decorations adorning the stores. It’s a scene we can easily picture in our minds -- we exit the grocery or department store, tired, arms heavy with bags of whatever it was we were in such a rush to buy. We play dodge ball with other frenzied shoppers as we maneuver our way through the craziness towards the exit. It’s the scene where we are met by an iconic sound, one of chimes mingling in a range of tones saturating the brisk winter air. It’s the Salvation Army’s Red Kettle bell ringers. I will speak only for myself when I say, that at moments like these, I awkwardly do one of two things. I either shuffle in the direction of my car, pretending not to hear the bells’ plea while whispering to my children my intentions of giving “next time.” Or I will take the time to dig in to the bottom of my bag in hopes to find some loose change to give or if I’m really lucky, recover a dollar bill my kids failed to find earlier in the day. I’ll drop the money in to the crimson pot and walk away feeling much happier at that moment versus how I would’ve felt in the “next time” scenario.

But whatever our reasons for giving or not, sometimes the sheer magnitude of red kettles or collections cans or return-addressed envelopes can be overwhelming. We give to one but feel guilty we can’t give to more. More often at this time of the year, we are reminded there are many without. For so many, the holidays can be a raw memo of the great deficits in their lives. In this, I am reminded of The Christmas Candle by Max Lucado. The book has recently made it to big screen. It tells a story of a London minister who finds himself faced with his darkest hour after his faith has slipped away. Skeptical of an angel, a candle, and the legacy both have left on the town, he leaves his church. Trying to will his heart back to belief through good deeds, the minister spends his days with The Salvation Army serving soup to the hungry. What happens next is an inspiring example of another’s capacity to give. Just like the pastor in The Christmas Candle, it would’ve been easy for the man who eventually founded the Salvation Army to give up. Amidst struggles to overcome great poverty and hardship, William Booth took to the streets to feed the most destitute. Stories like these say to us that despite devastating odds, it is possible for a single individual to affect change.

It can be less of what we don’t have and more of what we do -- ourselves. It is about paying goodness forward. It’s about altruism, the wish to do good deeds. Truly wanting to help others. Given the opportunity, people want to want to give back. Look at Team Rubicon, an organization uniting the skills and experiences of military veterans, many coming home from war searching for renewed purpose, with first responders to rapidly deploy emergency response teams. Since 2010, Team Rubicon has impacted thousands of lives and is “motivated solely by the altruistic desire to help those in demonstrable need.” Motivated by the desire to help others. On a smaller scale, we can note the aspirations of three University of Michigan students who wanted to use their phones to make the world a better place one download at a time. Users of the free application “DoGood” are prompted daily with the simple task of performing a good deed. Since its inception, more than 1 million good deeds have been recorded. For many of us, giving back can be about doing, giving of our time, ourselves and expecting nothing in return. It doesn’t take extraordinary heroics to trigger a ripple just plain human kindness without a large price tag. Good deeds can be simple, honorable, inspiring and make us feel worthy inside.

Give and give and give back and as often as you can. Imagine your own crimson pot.

“The real measure of your wealth is how much you’d be worth if you lost all your money.”

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