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December 12, 2018

Giving Tuesday is the antidote to the sour, shrill times in which we live

November 27, 2018
The simple act of giving doesn’t just benefit those we want to help. It makes us happier and less anxious as individuals. (iStock)

We are entering the season of giving, but it would be easy enough to miss it.

Our anxiety levels are rising. Our communities are increasingly divided. With each day’s news, it can feel like the world is coming apart at the seams.




Amongst the tweets and threats, the intrigue and the outrage, the importance of the giving season isn’t top of mind for many.

Yet the simple act of giving doesn’t just benefit those we want to help. It has transformative effects on us all, in our communities and for our democracy. For those wishing for national renewal, generosity is our secret weapon.

First, giving makes us happier and less anxious as individuals. The act of giving — whether a donation, time, skills, a helping hand, a warm meal — makes people measurably happier and more empathetic. Giving produces the same hormone, oxytocin, as sex, cuddling a baby, or digesting a delicious meal. So whatever you are hoping to receive these holidays — from a new coat to a new car — the truth is you will likely end up happier if you give something away.

Second, giving creates stronger civic bonds. The way we each show up as citizens and neighbors to support our local communities doesn’t just help important causes, it makes our communities themselves happier, more connected, and more equitable. We are what we do together.

Critically, giving strengthens our democracy. In this fraught election season, there has been lots of discussion about how important voting is to a healthy democracy. But giving is just as important a way to participate as a citizen, and we don’t just get to do it once every couple of years. For all the things we disagree on — from social issues to politics — generosity is a candidate most Americans get behind. The gifts we make are ongoing votes in favor of a strong and vibrant society.

Today is Giving Tuesday. On the heels of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, those bonanzas of discount shopping, Giving Tuesday is a global grassroots celebration of ordinary giving. In just seven years, we have seen tens of millions contribute not just almost a billion dollars online for nonprofit organizations, but countless acts of kindness and unity from coat drives to community bake-offs.

This year, we will see Americans all over the country come together celebrate generosity with creativity and civic pride. In doing so they are helping themselves, their communities and their connection to other citizens locally and nationally. Here are just five examples, from the thousands of projects in the works.

In New Milford, N.J., and in Peabody, Kan., high school students will spend the day helping neighbors, creating care packages for the homeless, holding town-wide celebrations to highlight the importance of giving back.

In Bethel, Ak., in the freezing cold, bundled-up volunteers will collect donations from passing vehicles for the area’s local nonprofits for the third year in a row, benefiting organizations like the Tundra Women’s Coalition.

In Puerto Rico, local nonprofits will be helping to rebuild 100 homes, install solar energy at local health clinics, and wells and aqueducts for citizens.

The West Michigan Whitecaps, a minor league baseball team, will give out hot lunches and winter survival kits at a local park for those in need.

The Healthy Democracy Coalition is working to organize dinners in 50 cities across the country for neighbors across the political spectrum to come together to talk about family, democracy, and philanthropy.

We hope that all these efforts will add up to big results on the day. But they matter for what they represent as well as what they raise: a return to a civic discourse fueled by goodwill and optimism, rather than division and acrimony.

If you want to feel less anxious, strengthen your community and help repair our democracy the place to start is in giving back.




Timms is executive director at the 92Y, and Curran is chief innovation officer at the 92Y’s Belfer Center for Innovation & Social Impact.

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