Here comes the “Giving” Season

Gift in front of Menorah

Courtesy of MAGPhotography on Flickr

It not enough that the entire final 25% of the year is a wash of commercialized HalloThanksHanuChristmaKwanzaa.  Don’t forget the huge amount of money you are supposed to spend starting at midnight on Black Friday 8pm on Thanksgiving.  At the same time, your mailbox will be stuffed for pleas to give money to charity.  This stuffing began for me last week with the first seasonal pitch from Heifer International.

I don’t dislike charities, and Heifer International is actually one of my favorites; they do great work and they don’t nag me constantly.  I realize there is some sort of math that charities use that says if they send 5 mailers, they get back so much money, and if they send 10 mailers it’s this much more, but that doesn’t mean I appreciate the wasted paper, money, oil and time.

The time when people need help is not just this time of year.  You may feel warm and fuzzy donating toward Thanksgiving dinner at a homeless shelter, but these folks need to eat more than once a year.  That’s where year round charities step in; they spend your holiday money all year long.

If you are in a position to write checks to charities this time of year and think about tax deductions, that’s wonderful and I hope you thoughtfully share some of your good fortune with responsible and effective charitable organizations.  But whether you have cash to give or not, remember giving is not all about money.  You have other things to give.  Time.  Attention.  Care.  Extra homegrown tomatoes.

Whether it’s helping someone wrangle with a large package in a parking lot, picking up the keys a mother struggling with her toddler has dropped, smiling and being genuinely polite to an underpaid cashier with aching feet, or taking fresh garden produce to that elderly neighbor with the abandoned garden out back, you have something to give, and when you give gifts like politeness and concern, they have a way of coming back to you.

As gardeners, we are in a unique position to give.  We can not just give fresh food and cheerful bouquets, but we can also give gifts that time travel: seeds, cuttings, roots and plants.  We can give frugal gifts of dried herbs and jellies than mean much more than their cash value.  And we can give our knowledge and encouragement to someone trying to learn to grow a little food or just a flower in a pot.

So before the deluge of asking and giving begins, I want to send out my very own charitable plea: the giving season is not just the time of the year when we wrap things up in shiny paper and write checks intended for distant recipients.  It’s every day of the year.

(By Nicole Castle)

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